Tuesday, February 16, 2010

European fibre deployments continue apace

A piece in the FT by Karel Helson, president of the FTTH Council Europe, signposts a range of interesting activities across Europe, where a number of administrations are putting significant investment behind next generation access:

Portugal: "In January 2009, the Portuguese government signed an agreement with four of the nation’s operators – incumbent Portugal Telecom, alternative operators Oni Communications and Sonaecom, and cable TV company ZON Multim├ędia – for the roll-out of fibre networks to 1.5m homes and businesses. The operators agreed to co-operate and share ducts (the channels into which fibre-optic cables are laid), while the government contributed an €800m (£700m, $1.1bn) line of credit."

This report from Companies and Markets offers further insight:
"The government has also committed considerable infrastructure funds to develop the fibre sector, having already provided €800 million towards the estimated €2.5 billion national network cost. In common with many EU countries, the government has included broadband development in its economic recovery plans and has undertaken to pass legislation in 2010 aimed at reducing barriers to investment in new networks and ensuring equal access to the new infrastructure."
France: "...a few weeks ago, France announced it would invest €2bn to bring fibre to rural and less densely populated areas as part of a new economic recovery package." The Wall Street Journal offers further commentary, as does this blog posting on CircleID:
"The French government has now committed itself to investing €4.5 billion to support the rollout of a fibre-based telecom network and the development of a range of e-services (teleworking, telemedicine, health, government, justice, education etc) which can exploit the network's potential. The funds form part of a larger €35 billion bond issue announced by President Sarkozy last month: known as the 'grand emprunt', the government plans to pay for large-scale public projects through public debt in a bid to increase economic growth from 2010 and ease the country out of the continuing global economic crisis. The scale of the loan has been hotly debated, with some pundits suggesting upwards of €50 billion or €100 billion is a necessary expenditure in research, infrastructure and technology.

For now, the government is concentrating on a number of priorities, including education, research, the digital economy, and industry. As for broadband infrastructure alone, the government plans to spend €2 billion to enable up to 70% of the population to access at least 100Mp/s services by 2019. Public funding, it is hoped, will by supplemented by up to €4 billion from the private sector. The government's own €13 billion contribution towards overall infrastructure investment equals the amount which it has received from French banks in repayment of special funds extended to them in late 2008 and 2009, at the height of the economic crisis."
Greece: "The strategic importance of fibre networks is also evident in Greece, where the government is planning to support large-scale fibre roll-out." Samknows reported in November 2009 that the Greek FTTH plan is down but not out:
"Back in September 2008, the Greek government said it intended to build a next-generation access network that would pass 2 million homes – roughly 40% of the population – in Athens, Thessaloniki, and 50 other cities and towns across Greece. The network would offer speeds of 100 Mbps or even higher, giving the country a much needed boost on broadband league tables.

The Greek government wouldn’t have to foot the entire bill. Instead it would set up public-private partnerships – an increasingly common business model in Europe, and one that has been succesfully used to invest in fibre networks before. The state would contribute roughly one-third of the estimated €2.1 billion total cost, with the remaining investment coming from industry...If everything goes according to plan, the FTTH project will be submitted to the European Commission for approval in the second half of 2010, and the tender for network construction issued in 2011."
Finland: a particularly interesting one, this. From Paul Budde's blog:
"The Finnish government and regulator have set in train a national fibre or cable network enabling 100Mb/s connections across the country by December 2015. Wireless broadband based on Long-term evolution (LTE) technology became available in Oslo in December 2009 and will be progressively extended to other cities in 2010-2012. FttH networks are expected to push connectivity to 1Gb/s in urban areas. The regulator estimated that by 2015 about 94% of connections would be within 2kms of the network."
But what's even more interesting is the Finnet Group's Supermatrix project:
"(The Finnet Group) is now well advanced in developing an ambitious cloud-based collaborative project – dubbed Supermatrix – involving more than 40 telcos and IT players and to which the Group alone plans to invest about €1 billion during the next ten years. Essentially, the project aims to deliver 100Mb/s or more to subscribers while obviating the need for personal computers by providing the desktop as a service. Customers linked to Supermatrix only need certain peripherals – screen, mouse, keyboard, webcam etc – while data is processed in computer rooms located to serve each town or village. The ‘supercomputer’ system is connected to the IP backbone, and to individual users through fibre guaranteeing at least 100Mb/s. The essential functions such as data backups, maintenance, virus security and OS updates are performed by Supermatrix employees – essentially in the data datacenter run by the local telco. By logging on to the system, users tap into their own data and applications held centrally."
More on Supermatrix here and here. Three years to go before commercial launch, apparently, so watch this space...

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