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Is FttH Future-Proof Infrastructure?

Paul Budde

Telecoms engineers from all of the major telecoms services and equipment companies around the world agree that FttH is the only future-proof telecommunications technology. So who should we trust — the technology experts or politicians with different agendas? If there had been a division of opinion among these experts it would have been necessary to investigate it; but if they are all in agreement it is safe to follow their advice.

Certainly the copper network has life left in it. The same applied to steam power technology — at its peak this technology was perfected to make trains run at 220km per hour. The technology was abandoned, not because steam had no more life in it, but because in the meantime a new technology had superseded the old technology. But certainly, at that time countries such as Russia and China used steam trains for much longer.

Back to telecoms — the initial plan to extend the life of copper was abandoned in New Zealand. The country started out on a plan based on extending the life of copper, using fibre-to-the-node (FttN), which involved the deployment of thousands of street cabinets. Only Telecom NZ would profit from this, as no other company could afford to install equipment in all of these cabinets and in the absence of that equipment they would have been unable to compete.

The New Zealand Government deemed this not to be in the best interest of the country and abandoned the FttN plan. They have since replaced this with a plan to roll out FttH.

Around the world governments are worried about extending the life of the copper network through technologies such as FttN. Most governments want to move forward to open infrastructure that can be used by many companies and across industry sectors. Planning for facilities-based infrastructure competition for next-generation networks (NGNs) no longer makes sense. Telcos faced with the possibility that governments might intervene in their vertically-integrated business models are reluctant to invest in FttN, although at the same time they realise that building open networks based on their traditional ROI models is not economically viable.

Increasingly governments are beginning to understand — and telcos are beginning to agree — that basic infrastructure should be treated as a utility; and this will necessitate a totally new approach to the building and financing of such infrastructure.

So, for those claiming that there is life left in copper, they are right. We can use copper to 'drive at 220km an hour' but in the meantime the rest of the world is moving on and developing the next generation of technology.

Copper can indeed deliver 50Mb/s, but one would have to be living next to the telephone exchange to obtain such speeds. Many people using DSL services — especially in countries with widely dispersed telephone exchanges such as Australia and New Zealand — know all about this; those living further away from exchanges get inferior broadband services.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located hereVisit Page
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