[Fun] Google Fiber to the Pole

Google has just announced a new service: connectivity at the pole.

I can not imagine myself connecting my laptop to a pole (specially because some laptops now tend not to have Ethernet port) but it may be useful for some people…

Check more information at: https://fiber.google.com/about/poles/

FTTH Council Europe

As you probably expect, tomorrow I will be travelling to London to attend the annual FTTH Council Europe meeting.

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I have been quite busy lately because I have been engaged in a new project: an inventory tool to manage FTTH networks efficiently and at a very low cost.

Anyone interested in meeting me there or having more information about that tool, please drop me an e-mail.

FTTN DT investment plans

network

The second week of December, Deutsche Telekom presented their investment plans to meet the EC Digital Agenda and be able to offer broadband services to the bast majority of end users in Germany.

The technological choice was somehow strange, as DT presented as very novel a mixed architecture using fibre and using the twisted pair for the last segment of the network, in order to reduce deployment costs and then, cover more areas.

I am a fan of FTTH because I believe that ultra broadband needs to provide a clear upgrade path to offer Gigabit services and therefore, my comments might be somehow biased but anyway, I believe that most of the statements that I will make are valid.

So…

Regulatory issues

DT plans are to substitute the twisted pair that at present connects the CO to the end user by a hybrid segment of fibre + twisted pair. This is a clever movement in order to offer better services than the competition and at the same time, makes unviable to connect again the subscriber to the CO by means of copper, limiting future competition, unless the German watchdow presents a solution to solve this technical issue.

Technical and Operational issues

At this point, I think everyone agrees that FTTH is technically superior than FTTN and allows higher bandwidths and better latencies. Although FTTN may meet the Digital Agenda, those solutions are unable to offer symmetry and low latency and their scalability will be reduced. To upgrade those infrastructures will also be very costly so maybe now they cost less, but in the long run, global deployment costs will be higher.

Another consideration is that to deploy active equipment in the field inherently increases OPEX. Additionally, this active equipment needs to be allocated in cabinets and this may be a problem, as has been demonstrated for instance in the BT deployment in Chelsea, London.

Also, from the energy consumption perspective, VDSL FTTN architectures require more power than FTTH, as a lot of DSP is required to deliver high bandwidth on twisted pairs, while the use of less complex modulation techniques in FTTH architectures reduces power consumption quite dramatically.

Economic issues

From the CAPEX perspective, it is obvious that a FTTN is less costly that a FTTH approach, but in the long run, I am unsure whether the increased OPEX and the continuos investment to upgrade the infrastructure will not make overall costs higher. I understand however, that incumbent operators are private companies that need to satisfy their investors, so I also understand their position to gradually invest and at the same time keep giving dividends to their shareholders.

However, if they have chosen this approach, is because the overall equation is positive to DT interests, so maybe I am missing something that justifies their election…

I wish you all Happy New Year 2013, full of FTTH deployment.

Deploying a FTTH network in two weeks

Trident7 COLT

I have been inactive during the last couple of weeks. The reason for this was because we faced a challenge from one of our customers.

As you probably know, FTTH projects tend to have a quite long opportunity stage and accurate planning is very important. However, in this case we were in a rush due to the requirements of our customer.Due to the competition of another operator that wanted to cover the same area, he had to be the first to deploy in an industrial park. They gave us the notice 3rd December and now our customer already has 10 connected subscribers.

We achieved this remarkable goal by accurately planning our on-site tasks and by being extremely efficient while performing outside plant jobs.

We spent one week in our lab testing and pre-configuring all the equipment, so while on-site we could be very quick. I know that it is nicer to configure everything on-site but we simply had no time.

The Bill of Materials was also a complex task because we could just use off the shelf components and stock from our local suppliers. We had to adapt to what was available and not the other way around, which would be the preferred way.

We where on-site for three days. We spent the first morning installing the network head end and configuring the validation platform so we could certify that the active equipment was working properly.

Once we did that, we spliced the ODF at the head end and deployed the trunk cables. Installation was not difficult as ducting was available and free.

During day two we installed the distribution boxes, from which we would deploy the drop cables to the final customers. We did all the splicing also on day 2.

Finally, during day 3 we connected the users. We had some help from our customer, who installed the cable and left us the job of splicing and connecting the ONTs. We connected five users during the morning and five users in the afternoon.

Now the project is operational and our customer has been the first one to deploy in this industrial park. Companies there can enjoy 100Mbps at a very competitive price and we expect to connect the rest of the companies (we expect a very high take-up rate) during the next weeks.

FTTH is easy.

FTTH and the Smart Grid

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk at Rural SmartGrid congress, to talk about synergies between telecom and power utilities. As the development of FTTH infrastructures is now a very hot topic in Spain, the message that I transmitted during my talk was how the electric Smart Grid and FTTH could generate win-win scenarios. Bill St. Arnaud has been widely talking about this in his blog and I can not but agree with his positions.

My vision regarding FTTH, and in general ultra broadband, is that they have a transversal impact and that are not just business for telecom operators. The national telecom operators are all investing in the big cities and there is a lot of room and areas to explore in the countryside, where national operators are not competitive because it is a completely different business to deploy a network in a very dense area than in a small town.

Therefore, small power utilities have also opportunities to develop ultra broadband to offer transversal services to their customers, and I do not mean just internet access. When one mixes broadband and power distribution, the potencial synergies between both are huge:

  • real-time power management
  • power consumption monitoring and optimization
  • new apps that use data from both services…

However, this new approach also requires changes in power utilities mentality, as to sell telecom services is totally different than energy ones.

This is because the telecom sector is a very competitive market, and the subscriber is  perceived as a customer, while in the energy sector, the subscriber is just a a subscriber. This forces to redefine the marketing and commercial structures of power utilities but anyway, I really believe they can do it.

On the other hand, power utilities are in a very good position to offer telecom services because they already have a base of subscribers and at the same time, they deployment costs should be reduced, as they can use their existing infrastructures to deploy ultra broadband.

Therefore, I see a lot of potential in potential partnerships between telecom operators and power utilities in order to jointly develop ultra broadband projects in low density areas.

We will see in the short term if this starts to happen…

Evolution or revolution when migrating to FTTH?

As I have been posting during the last weeks, there are a lot of movements in the ultra broadband access market. Almost all the network operators are investing to upgrade their infrastructures to offer high speed services.

Following some comments from my previous post, this article presents migration strategies to deploy FTTH.

Mainly, I see three scenarios, which I will analyse separately, which are deployments in an area where the operator:

  • has no infrastructure
  • is offering DSL services
  • has CATV infrastructure

When the operator has no infrastructure, for me the right choice is to go fiber all the way. At present, this is the cheapest technology and at the same time, the one that is more future-proof  so the investment is secured. If the operator has CATV platforms and is expanding its network, it can use RFoG technologies so all systems remain invariant.

When the operator is offering broadband through DSL technologies, I also believe the right road to follow is to deploy FTTH. DSL is a technology that requires a lot of signal processing and thus, active equipment in the field tends to be quite big. Power consumption and dissipation are also high therefore, it is difficult to accomodate the equipment in the outside plant.

These two cases I call revolutionary because require a completely new outside plant deployment.

Finally, if the operator has CATV infrastructure I think that a progressive upgrade is possible in order to gradually upgrade its infrastructure. The ultimate step will be a complete FTTH network but by cleverly approaching the fiber near the home in steps, the operator can increase network performance and at the same time invest progressively in the network. Active nodes are not bigger than RF amps so there should be no aesthetic issues either. At present, several CATV operators are following this approach.

Obviously, in a perfect world we would deploy FTTH from day one, but when one faces a new deployment, there are many things to be considered (funding, rights of way, …) that will affect our deployment plans. Thus, evolutionary approaches are a very good way to mitigate the risk and at the same time balance the investment in several years.