Copper critical to telco's broadband plans

There aint no gold in them there copper wires, executives at BT and Deutsche Telekom say, despite a rash of recent thefts in the UK.
Sean Williams, group strategy director at BT, told Broadband World Forum delegates there is little benefit to selling the telco’s current copper lines to fund rollout of fiber, adding that the cables are a key part of its broadband strategy.
“There is a lot that can be done on copper,” he said, adding that BT’s business case will see “20% of broadband customers [on] fiber and 80% on copper.”
His view was echoed by Olivier Baujard, chief technology officer of Deutsche Telekom. “Operationally it will still take several years [to deploy fiber] and you won’t have the benefit of copper,” if all lines are sold, he told attendees during a keynote question and answer session.
Williams dismissed reports pricing the scrap value of BT’s copper network at £50 billion (€57.3 billion) or more, and revealed the telco is focused on deploying fiber to the cabinet rather than to the home. The operator is spending equal amounts on fiber and upgrading current copper lines to ADSL2+, which Williams says will be a key element in offering high-speed services to 90% of UK homes by 2013.
However, uptake of fiber services to date suggests carriers can’t roll the stuff out quickly enough. Williams notes that at least half of BT subscribers sign up to the firm’s Infinity high-speed service when it comes online in their area, stating that the carrier is “not finding it hard to sell.”
The firm is also developing a fiber-to-the-premise product, which Williams says will be launched by the year end. That leaves BT confident of hitting EU targets of offering a 100Mbps service to at least half of the UK by 2020, however to do so it will also rely on ADSL to reach the final 2% to 10% of homes that are unlikely to ever be passed by fiber. The firm is also trialing LTE and white space for last-mile connectivity, Williams says.
Baujard highlighted the problem with FTTH deployments, noting it would cost between €70 billion and €80 billion to equip every home in Germany with fiber. The outlay may seem worthwhile given the higher-value services consumers are likely to access on the networks, however Baujard said it could take 10 years to 25 years to see a return on investment.
In the meantime, the German incumbent is focused on the tricky task of converging fixed and mobile networks – in particular boosting wireless reception indoors. Mobile, Baujard says, is “shifting massively from outdoor [usage] to indoors,” with around “80% using [their mobile] phone indoors,” at present.
The Deutsche Telekom man also revealed that tablet PCs generate three to four times more data traffic than smartphones, with the bulk of usage from a fixed location rather than on the move.