Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BPN 1343 FTMH - Europe’s fiber users doing it for themselves

Markets which currently enjoy the highest fiber deployment in Europe are characterised by a wide range of non-telco activity, including the direct involvement of construction companies, utilities, municipal governments and real estate investors. In many respects these efforts and initiatives have shown the rest of Europe than FttH can be developed without direct State involvement, and indeed without the involvement of incumbent telcos.

The range of initiatives is an important signal to the industry that the high cost of FttH deployment (which is nevertheless being brought down year by year through technological innovation) is no barrier to network construction.

If the mantra ‘give the customer what he wants’ is sound business practice, then the leading fiber nations have also shown that customers are willing to undertake much of the mechanical (engineering) effort themselves, rather than wait for years for their local provider to undertake the work. This truly demonstrates that fiber networks can be built inexpensively from the ground up. For operators, the involvement of customers digging their own trenches to their homes is obvious – without undertaking these costs themselves they nevertheless can take advantage of being the ‘first in’ provider.

In Sweden, The Netherlands and Norway it has become normal practice for customers in rural areas to dig their own trenches. In Norway’s Stavanger muni-fiber project up to 80% of residents have dug their own trenches to fast-track the local private energy company and telecom provider Lyse Tele to lay out fiber. The company now serves more than 130,000 customers in 280 communities, and claims a take-up rate of more than 60%.

Nor are trenches hundreds of yards long, requiring the homeowner to rent digging machinery for the weekend: Lyse Tele installs fiber directly to a customer’s front yard and provides guidance (the required depth, insulation etc) on how to extend the cable to the house. Lyse Tele also benefits the customer by providing a discount on the service installation. By these pragmatic means, about 80% of customers choose to dig their own trenches. The company has also found that customers who have become involved in their own installation (thus adopting some of its value personally) stick with Lyse Telecom thereafter: customer churn is a remarkably low 0.2%. Lyse Tele has by these means grown from being a local energy provider to a true pan-Nordic operator, as well as a beacon to others in how fibre networks can be cost-effectively delivered to customers.

(A self-help project called Fiber to the Farm is operational now in the East of the Netherlands JB)

This sumnmary is an overview of separate country reports by Paul Budde Communications Pty

Blog Posting Number 1343

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