APAC still rules FTTx...at a price

Asia-Pacific continues to dominate the global FTTx scene – provided you include fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) – but fiber rollouts remain expensive thanks largely to fixed costs and civil works.

APAC had 32.2 million FTTx subscribers as of September 2009, compared to 6.8 million in North America and 2.8 million in Europe, according to Loke Yoon Kun, president of FTTH Council Asia-Pacific.

South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan are the top markets in the world in terms of market penetration. But remove FTTB + LAN from the stats and the ranking change somewhat, with Japan and Korea as the top two FTTH markets, followed by Norway and Slovenia.

“FTTB + LAN accounts for almost two thirds of fiber take-up in Asia-Pacific,” said Loke. “We include those numbers because in Asia, FTTB and FTTC are often the most realistic option.”

Loke also said that China and Singapore were stealing the show from Japan as the new growth story in Asia. China’s FTTx subscriber base stands at 7.2 million, up 13% quarter-on-quarter, while Singapore added a million new FTTx subs in the last quarter alone.

As for how much FTTx is costing operators to roll out, that varies from market to market, Loke said, adding that the FTTH Council doesn’t do cost models for that very reason.

But a UK study by Analysys Mason revealed that fixed costs such as ducts and street cabinets tend to account for much of the bill.

“For FTTH, fixed costs account for 65% of the rollout costs, while 50% of  the cost of an FTTC rollout is civil works,” said Analysys Mason senior manager Paul Sumner.

Sumner added that while some governments promoting NBN projects are looking at creating a wholesale model for passive infrastructure like ducts, cabinets, fiber drop points and dark fiber, implementation of such a model will be “problematic”.

For a start, he said, access to existing ducts is not always a sure thing. “In the UK, for example, less than 50% of duct space is unoccupied enough to allow new fiber to be installed,” but even those face numerous challenges, from rain flooding and sewage blocks to inaccurate maps of manhole locations.

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