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Consumers favour FTTH video services

Posted: 17 Mar 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FTTH  fiber-to-the-home  fiber optic  wireless network 

Early findings suggest consumers tend to adopt and enjoy fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) video services at rates higher than for competing services based on satellite, cable and fibre to the neighbourhood node, according to an executive at fibre optic supplier Corning Inc.

Satisfaction survey
In a survey of customer satisfaction, respondents ranked Verizon's Fios FTTH network highest in satisfaction with 96 per cent of respondents satisfied with the service. By contrast, satellite-based services for DirecTV and Dish Network ranked at 89 and 82 per cent respectively, and AT&T's fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) service was in line with several cable TV services that ranged from 70 to 73 per cent.

Separately, among consumers who said they were not satisfied with their new FTTN service from AT&T, about 70 per cent said the reason was it offered inferior video service compared with their previous supplier, presumably a satellite or cable TV carrier.

In addition, adoption rates of the AT&T service have slumped recently, while those of Verizon are on the rise. The percentage of homes passed by the AT&T network that chose the service has gone from about 10 per cent to about 6 per cent. By contrast, figures for Verizon are trending up from about 4 per cent to about 15 per cent.

"We are early in the process and FTTN is still new, but right now consumers seem to be saying FTTN is not quite as good" as FTTH, said Bob Whitman, a program manager responsible for strategy and business development for fibre networking at Corning.

Whitman compiled the statistics from a number of sources as part of a forum on broadband access trends at the 2008 Photonics West Exhibition.

Verizon currently aims to make its network available to as many as 1.8 crore users and currently serves most of the estimated 20 lakh FTTH customers in the United States. AT&T said it aims to pass as many as 3 crore homes with its FTTN network and has not been deploying its service as long as competitor Verizon.

Cable competition
Cable companies represent the biggest competition for both fibre nets. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at the last Consumer Electronics Show that his company aims to roll out a 160Mbit/s service this year based on it hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) network moving to the Docsis 3.0 standard. The Comcast HFC net currently has more than 50 subscribers on many of its nodes, said Whitman.

"To get that 160Mbit/s rate they will have to get down to less than 50 subscribers per node," said Whitman. "The cable plant is very robust, but trying to keep up with Verizon is not something you can do with HFC," he added.

Whitman was generally bullish on FTTH, noting the architecture now has about 1.5 crore subscribers worldwide. About 1.05 crore of them are in Japan where carriers are still adding as many as 300,000 new customers each month.

DSL declines
In Japan, DSL uptake started to decline in early 2006 and the technology now loses about 300,000 customers per quarter, mainly to FTTH architectures, which are growing by nearly 900,000 customers per quarter, he said. "This is a preview of what the U.S. will look like," Whitman said.

FTTH deployments in the U.S. only started in earnest in early 2004 when Verizon began work on Fios. At the time fewer than 200,000 U.S. homes were passed by a FTTH network, but today more than 1 crore U.S. homes are passed by such networks, Whitman said. Meanwhile, the cost to deploy such nets has dropped from Rs.1.77 lakh ($4,500) per home passed to just Rs.59,047.79 ($1,500) to not only pass but connect the home as well, he added.

Deployment costs are falling, thanks in part to fibre optic cables that are more tolerant of being bent and new connectors that can be more readily installed to splice fibre lines in the field. Today as many as 47 per cent of worldwide carriers say they are in trials or are deploying FTTH nets, Whitman said.

The growth is giving Corning execs occasion to ponder their long-term horizon. "Until recently we haven't even considered an in-home market for fibre, but we are beginning to think about it now," he said.

Indeed, the next-generation of systems that terminate an FTTH network will be integrated with residential gateways, according to chipmakers. However, those systems expect to link to copper and wireless networks in the home.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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