In the two decades since FTTP first started being deployed in select locations in Northern Europe, telecom operators have radically changed their views on the relevance of full fiber broadband. Where once DSL was considered the key technology, sufficient to cover needs for decades to come, fiber to the premises is now seen as the main solution for future proof broadband with DSL and wireless technologies mostly relegated to pockets of the market considered unprofitable or hard to address.
The key shift in the market occurred when operators and their shareholders became convinced that the demand was there. For a long time, there was uncertainty about customer demand, despite operator after operator showing significant take-up rates. This is no longer the case, and even in emerging markets like Nepal or Indonesia where many thought FTTP could not be affordably deployed, players like Worldlink or Telkom Akses have proven that there were workable and financially profitable business cases.
And yet, FTTP broadband does not yet represent the majority of broadband lines worldwide. Only in a few countries has it overtaken DSL. The potential for more deployment is massive still, and this is due to a number of reasons:
In developed markets, some players are still struggling to convince their investors of the relevance of FTTP. These operators are no longer structured for long term infrastructure-building, with significant revenues over five years away. That is in part why wholesale models, much better suited for long term investment, are gathering momentum in a number of markets;
In developing markets, the above issue is compounded by the fact that often fixed broadband was not much developed in the first place. And while the incremental cost of replacing DSL with FTTP is high, the cost of deploying greenfield FTTP is often higher. This is clearly a challenge, but also an opportunity for mobile players who can make a play for fixed broadband when incumbents haven’t.
In all markets, while the technology in the access may be upgraded to fiber or in the process of being so, the systems and methods have often not followed suit. Inventory and maintenance systems are antiquated and inadequate, leading to faults, high operations expenditure and customer dissatisfaction.
What Operators Need to Do
Going forward, operators should look at their outside plants in a more systematic fashion and try to streamline technologies, processes and systems so that not only do they deliver better services and better quality of service to customers, but do it in a way that costs as little as possible operationally.
The focus on FTTH CAPEX is important, but perhaps it is excessive in light of the considerable OPEX gains to be made. The great virtue of fiber to the premise solutions is that while CAPEX heavy, they can be very light on OPEX. But that requires systemic approaches so that from the deployment phase, everything is thought in order to minimize OPEX down the line.
This is easier for greenfield deployments and newcomers to the market than for established players who have legacy copper or cable outside plants as well as a multiplicity of systems to manage customer lines. Too often, service providers are tempted into just letting things run in parallel, because in the short term it looks like things are working fine. But, down the line, that results in unclear processes, undocumented infrastructure, parallel provisioning and billing systems and many more inefficiencies that add up to lots slow and expensive operation and maintenance.
Smart Operators Need Smart Solutions
Huawei’s SingleFAN Pro solution is thought out to address these systemic issues. While it is (of course) possible to purchase various components from Huawei without necessarily purchasing the full end-to-end package, the complete solutions offers features that are hard to otherwise emulate, especially when it comes to network monitoring and management.
The philosophy behind SingleFAN Pro is interesting as it is designed to be a continually evolving solution, with new features being offered, new components to address more issues operators may be facing and a general adaptability to the market circumstances of various players.
On the build side of the equation, SingleFAN Pro aims at reducing CAPEX by introducing flexibility and reusability of existing infrastructure, not only for existing fixed players but also for mobile players making a move into fiber to the premises. By introducing its lightweight Blade OLT that can be mounted on poles, walls, the solution eliminated the need for large and cumbersome central offices, giving players with no existing real-estate besides poles (like mobile operators) an opportunity to deploy fast and easy. The latest addition to the design philosophy of the solution’s build approach is to do away with splicing in the outside plan, resulting in a fully pre-connectorized solution that requires less specialized skills and deployment and minimizes faults. This leads to faster deployments and lower CAPEX.
On the manage and operate side, SingleFAN Pro is equally innovative, with the latest developments allowing for a fully integrated “inventory as you build” approach resulting in 100% accurate inventory. Furthermore, that inventory is 100% digital, and therefore fully compatible with network and fault management solutions, resulting in more proactive fault management, less customer downtimes and more accurate and effective interventions when they are needed. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and a significantly lower OPEX.
The beauty of an end-to-end solution is also that the end user is part of the equation. In order to address dissatisfaction with Wi-Fi, an issue that persists in the market and causes great strain on customer support for many operators, Huawei recently introduced a Fiber to the Room extension to its ONT range in SingleFAN Pro. With this approach, the primary ONT in the home acts as an OLT for the home, allowing for the distribution of fiber to multiple end-points in the house, resulting in 100% Wi-Fi coverage. This is not only a way to address end-user issues but to enable operators to generate new revenues with a true premium.
New Opportunities for Carriers
For carriers already heavily invested in fiber to the home, these features open avenues for additional revenue streams, better customer loyalty and the reinforcement of market share in the face of fiber rich competitors coming to market.
For mobile operators moving into the fiber space, it’s an opportunity to develop fixed revenues selectively, cherry picking the most profitable areas with minimal initial investment, reusing as much of their existing infrastructure as possible.
Cable operators (MSOs) and legacy copper operators can reuse the most of their existing outside plans but deploy fiber smoothly and selectively where it makes the most sense, and transition their systems at the same time as their platforms. The benefits in customer satisfaction and OPEX gains will accrue and make further deployment easier and more profitable. There are many more features and options of interest in the SingleFAN Pro solution, but what’s most convincing about it is that it is so comprehensive. By embracing its end-to-end nature, Huawei can go further in addressing pain points for operators. By striving to constantly evolve and enhance the solution, it broadens its relevance to more players in more markets. It truly is a state of the art solution in the FTTP vendor market today
About the Author
CEO and Chief Research Officer, Diffraction Analysis
Benoît founded Diffraction Analysis in 2010 as a boutique analyst firm focused on the workings and implications of Next Generation Access development in fixed networks. His work and analyses span the breadth of the NGA space, from technical choices and deployment best practices to regulation, policy and interactions between network and content players. His past experiences cover not only the retail and business markets, but also wholesale dynamics in telecoms.