insights

Getting to Gigabit is hard – so why make it harder?

05.04.2019 - Els Baert

Getting to Gigabit is hard – so why make it harder?

The global fixed-broadband market is now comfortably well over the 1 billion mark in terms of connected premises and with the current rate of growth it probably won’t be too long before we are headed close to the 2 billion mark.

So, what can we conclude from what has happened in the market since we saw the first DSL and HFC broadband products around 20 years ago?

One thing we can conclude for sure is that we didn’t get to 1 billion connections by being rigid in our approach to connecting customers. For the most part operators around the world have taken a pragmatic approach.

Some operators went down the fibre route very early whilst others remained heavily focused on cable or building next-generation VDSL networks – there was certainly no one size fits all approach. It all depends on the environment the operator plays in.

As an industry we need to adopt the same approach as we look to take the industry to the next stage as we attempt to upgrade that first billion connections to ultra-fast Gigabit services as well as connect the next billion end-users to broadband.

There is no doubt that fibre is the future of the fixed-broadband industry – it’s easy to forget that despite all the media hype that fibre is the secret ingredient behind the looming 5G revolution.

However, as wonderful as fibre is, operators need to be cautious about placing all of their eggs in the fibre basket – taking fibre to each and every premises is a hugely ambitious goal and one which will take a long time and a lot of money to achieve.

The reality is that although the age of copper-based telecom networks is over that the copper that has been deployed by operators is still an extremely valuable asset.

Most of that copper will be replaced by fibre but that last 100-200 metres that connect each premises can help operators deliver universal access to Gigabit speeds faster and more cost effectively than trying to run new fibre to every premises.

This is especially the case when operators are trying to connect apartment buildings where legal and operational problems make it very hard for operators to run new fibre into each individual apartment in the building.

In larger buildings it makes sense in this scenario to install a new powered DSLAM in the basement and then use the existing in-building copper to run VDSL in a typical Fibre-to-the-Building style of deployment.

However, that is not always possible to achieve as comms rooms can often be inaccessible or lack available power which means network operators are sometimes unable to deliver ultra-fast broadband to these buildings.

This is a poor outcome for both the operator – who is leaving potential customers and valuable revenues on the shelf – and for the end-users who are left with slow or no broadband for an extended period.

This is where new solutions are needed and NetComm is bringing real world experience to the table in the shape of our successful launch of reverse-powered Fibre-to-the-Curb (more commonly known as Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point) services with NBN Co in Australia.

Although the first part of our deployment with NBN Co saw us focus primarily on Single Dwelling Units with our 4-port DPUs we are now moving towards launching our 8-port and 16-port reverse-powered DPUs to help NBN connect mid-sized MDUs in their FTTC footprint.

Our solution enables NBN Co to run new fibre outside the MDU in question and then connect into the existing copper with our Gfast enabled DPU – delivering the same kind of symmetrical Gigabit services over short copper lines that was previously only possible with an FTTH connection.

As the DPU is reverse powered from the end-user, this can be done with only minimal service disruption to the end-user and the end-user can self-install their new service once they are sent their upgraded modem.

The stark reality is quite simple, delivering a Gigabit service to any home is complicated – meaning that making it available to every home is bound to be an extremely complicated task indeed.

That being the case it makes no sense at all for operators to make their already complicated task of connecting MDUs to Gigabit broadband any harder than it needs to be – especially when new solutions are available that make their task substantially easier.

Using an FTTdP approach in MDUs makes for a trouble-free connection experience for customers and also allows operators to avoid potentially time-consuming clashes with building managers and owners so it makes perfect sense.

The last twenty years or so of broadband has shown us that there is never any one-size-fits all solution for connecting every premises in a market, a range of approaches will always be needed and that includes using that priceless copper asset that remains in place.

author
Els Baert

Els Baert

Director of Marketing & Communication at NetComm.