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Exciting Stuff at the FTTH Council Europe Conference in Stockholm

4 Feb


Like every year, Diffraction Analysis is an analyst partner of the FTTH Council Europe annual conference which this year takes place in Stockholm on February 19-20th with pre-conference workshops on the 18th.

This year is particularly exciting for us because we will finally be able to show results from a very exciting quantitative study of broadband users in Sweden. We think these figures could significantly change some of the perceptions around the potential of FTTH. These results will be presented during Session 15 of the Conference on the FTTH Business Case:

Session 15: February 20th, 14:15, Room B

You will not want to miss that, sorry for insisting!

Benoît Felten will be there during the whole week of the conference from Feb 17-21st. He will be manning the Diffraction Analysis booth when not otherwise engaged. The booth is in the Analyst Corner section of the exhibition floor. Should you want to meet with Benoît for a briefing, expert opinion or to discuss business opportunities, please get in touch!

In addition, Benoît will be speaking at a number of workshops and events throughout the week:

  • Tuesday 18th AM – Huawei Customer Event
    Speech: 5 ways to supercharge your FTTP Business Case
  • Tueday 18th PM – Investor Day
    Panel Moderation
  • Tuesday 18th PM – World of Applications Workshop
    Speech: FTTP Usage Trends

Diffraction Analysis and Fiberevolution will be tweeting teasers from our study results starting tomorrow and all the way leading up to the conference. Please spread these around if you find them interesting!

Is Turnbull planning to turn the NBN over to Telstra ?

23 Sep

A few months ago, when the coalition’s plans for the Australian NBN were announced, I wrote the following in an article on Telecom TV:

The core of Labor’s NBN plan though, which is the structural separation of networks and the equal access to a regulated wholesale platform, is retained [by the Coalition]. By staying on board with that the Coalition offers a plan that is within the continuity of what has been done. 

A couple of announcements today however got me to reconsider that:

  • first we learned that Telstra is trialing VDSL Vectoring with the avowed aim of bidding for the NBN build-out. In any other market, the idea that the service arm of the structurally separated incumbent would bid to build the network of the infrastructure arm would be outrageous to say the least but not in Australia, it seems. More worrying are Turnbull’s statements prior to the election on the issue, according to AFR: “Mr Turnbull said in the weeks leading up to the election it was “bizarre” Telstra had been left out of the construction project and it would be good to get the company more involved in the Coalition’s roll-out.” That sure sounds like a fair and equal assessment of sub-contractors is the most likely scenario… not?
  • second, we learned that the entire board of the NBN offered its resignation and that (according to “Mr Turnbull said after the election that former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski would be well qualified for the role of NBN Co chairman.

So in summary, the minister favors Telstra to build the NBN and an ex-Telstra CEO to head the NBN. Which makes the NBN look suspsciously like Telstra.

I have to confess I hadn’t seen this coming, but sadly I now have to say that, conspiracy theories aside, it looks like structural separation is dead as a Dodo…


Photo Credits: Eva Rinaldi

Can the Australian Fiber NBN be radically redesigned?

26 Aug

To say that everything surrounding the Australian NBN is a political can of worms would be an understatement. The general elections in a few weeks, with Labor trailing in the polls, may spell if not the doom at least a radical trimming of NBN’s ambitions. In this context, I stumbled upon this interesting presentation by Simon Hackett entitled Building a Fiber NBN on a Copper Budget. I don’t know who Simon Hackett is, and if he is politically motivated (it seems like everybody is, looking from the outside), and more importantly perhaps, I haven’t done the financial analysis that would allow to assess whether his opening statement is correct.

What’s more interesting to me in this context is that he suggests some interesting ways in which a wholesaler can lower his own investment costs. In a nutshell, he offers three paths (not competing, complementary):

  • Forget about QoS: basically, he argues that bandwidth trumps QoS, and since fiber offers virtually unlimited bandwidth, the complexities and costs of QoS management and more importantly QoS wholesaling should be avoided. I don’t disagree on principle with this one, although the confines of QoS should probably be better defined, but I’m assuming he means “different grades of traffic management”.
  • Drop PSTN (and multiple VLAN capability): Simon’s point is that PSTN is dying and shouldn’t be carried over to the NBN. I agree with him 100% on that one although I’m pretty sure the regulator imposed PSTN continuation to the NBN anyway. But honestly, any fiber deployment done today should have two aspects embedded into its DNA: eliminate copper (long term) and eliminate legacy systems. Not sure I’m quite as bullish on eliminating the ability to deliver separate VLANs. Some services, especially around home security, healthcare, etc. are going to require a fully separated path for security reasons, and until that can be done over WDM, VLANs seem to me to be the only way to go.
  • Let the ISPs pay for the ONT: that’s the most intriguing of Simon’s suggestions. Instead of imposing an ONT paid for by the NBN, he says, the set-up should assume that the ISPs will install the ONT since they will want to install some equipment inside the home anyway. On paper this looks very tempting and financially it could represent significant savings for sure, but I’m concerned this simply couldn’t work for a simple reason: first, unless the NBN forced a vendor onto the ISPs, which seems unlikely to be approved, I’d have serious misgivings about interoperability of the ONTs. This has been a known issue with GPON for a long time and while various vendors have spoken about furthering interoperability in the standards, letting the ISPs pick their ONT vendors would still be a huge leap of faith.


Still, these are some interesting ideas, and at least it’s good that they’re being asked. I’m assuming in saying that there is no political calculation behind them. In which I may very well be wrong.

Still, if Simon Hackett can convince Malcolm Trunbull that he can get a fiber network for the cost of a copper one the Coalition should be trumpeting that left, right and center!

Gigabit Musings

21 Jun

Just a quick note to point out two recent articles on gigabit broadband.

Despite similarities in theme, the two are very different and address different facets of a same issue.

Real-Estate and Fiber in Lebanon

6 May

After the FTTH Council Europe Real-estate and FTTH webinar (the replay of which can be found here), I was sent this picture by a contact in Lebanon. It’s good to see that – especially in emerging markets – the perception of the added value of fiber for new developments exists.


Data Caps are the new front on the net neutrality war

2 May

Gaffel Kolsch by Generallysceptical ) on

The tech press has been abuzz last week when it was first leaked and later announced that Deutsche Telekom would soon apply data caps to their wireline broadband offers (see this Fierce Telecom article for details.) Unlike AT&T style caps, heavy users will not be charged overage, they will be throttled to service levels marginally higher than what we’d get in the days of dial-up.

The company, as is often the case with these stories, claims that this is to avoid the cost of bandwidth hogs spilling over to the general public’s subscriptions. It’s not.

Caps serve no purpose in managing traffic flows, as Diffraction Analysis clearly demonstrated in our study last year entitled Do Data Caps Punish the Wrong Users. In fact, that’s even been admitted semi-officially by the head of the US Cable lobbying association. Data Caps serve no purpose other than to create a very strong disincentive for customers to consume video “over the top”. The fact that DTs own video-on-demand service will not count as part of the monthly traffic allowance is to be expected, and is a clear giveaway.

DT is playing foul, but that is also to be expected: this is just a new front in the war against Net Neutrality. Since operators, incumbents in particular, can’t get a clear go-ahead on the ability to throttle online service providers to their hearts’ content or to make them pay a toll for delivering traffic to end-users who have already paid for the right to access that content, they’re creating barriers on the side of the end-users to make their own service offerings unfairly competitive.

The real question is what happens next: will DT lobby the government and regulator to apply the same caps to their wholesale bitstream offers ? I suspect they will, just as it happened in Canada. Otherwise, other operators in the market will start advertising no-capping policies, and if they’re smart they’ll even start partnering with online content providers to drive the difference (for more on that see Diffraction Analysis’ latest report Building the Optimal NGA Service Portfolio). That could mean loss of market share for DT.

Is the German market truly competitive ? Guess we’ll know soon enough.


Photo Credits: Gaffel Kolsch by Generallysceptical (CC)

FTTH Benefits for Real-Estate Webinar Replay

24 Apr

The replay for the FTTH Benefits for Real-Estate Webinar is up on Vimeo. You can find it here:

Video Webinar 18 April 2013 – The Positive Effects of FTTH for Real Estate Projects from paftthcouncileu on Vimeo.

I’ve also uploaded the slides on slideshare if you’re interested, they’re here.

Interview on Australian Telecom Podcast Crosstalk

22 Apr

Last week I was interviewed by Phil Dobbie on the Australian Telecom Podcast Crosstalk about the viability of on-demand FTTP. The whole show addresses issues of copper pull-through with an AAAC representative and on-demand FTTP as seen from the UK perspective as well as my own comments on the issue.

Don't put your trust in on-demand FTTP…

12 Apr

On Tap by Benoît Felten (benfelten)) on

One of the most interesting features of this week’s alternative NBN plan published by the Australian opposition (see my article Australia’s NBN becomes a political football on Telecom TV) is this notion of “on-demand FTTP”.

On paper, there’s a lot to be said for this concept. Basically, the operator (public or private) deploys Fiber to the Node, but a consumer can pay to get Fiber to the Premises if they really want it. This feature is not unique to the alternative NBN proposal, it’s also being trialled by BT in the UK as highlighted in this article. What’s interesting about the concept is that in theory it addresses the demand issue. In a nutshell, we’ll deliver “better broadband” to you for free, but if you really want “kick-ass broadband”, you can pay extra to get it.

Except it’s a technically absurd concept, for two reasons:

  • firstly, because the costs of FTTP deployment that are commonly considered (say around €1000 per home in dense urban areas) are mass deployment costs. These costs can be met when you send teams on the field to connect every home. If you send teams on the field to connect one home, the costs are much much higher. Just look at how much large businesses are paying to connect their premises: it’s in the tens of thousands of euros. Presumably, there’s a comfortable margin built into that price, but it still gives a sense of what the real cost would be.
  • secondly, and very ironically, both BT and the Australian NBN chose point to multipoint architectures. That means that if a customer was to ask for an FTTP connection in a given area, the whole active equipment chain from the customer’s ONT to the splitter to the OLT would have to be activated for a single customer. The costs of that are absolutely prohibitive.

And I won’t even mention the network management absurdity of maintaining two parallel infrastructures, one of which only serves a very small number of customers.

On-demand FTTP is a fallacy. It will either never materialize or be priced in such a way as to convince customers not to take it. The reason it’s being put forward is purely as a marketing argument for BT and the Australian opposition to be able to say “those that really want it will be able to get it”.

Not unless they’re filthy rich, they won’t…


Photo Credit: On Tap by Benoît Felten

Susan Crawford throws her hat in the ring

9 Apr

During Mobile World congress, Telefonica Executive Chariman Alierta made an impassioned speech asking for the European market to be more like the US when it comes to telecoms. Here is a quoted segment of his speech:

But we’re behind. It’s not normal that the main concern is that there should be three or four operators in Austria, for example. In the United States, there are three big operators, the same as in China. Here in Europe we have 160.

Of course, I know exactly where it is that Mr. Alierta wants to go with this. But just for the record, this is what the situation is in the US:

Policy makers and consumers should be very, very careful what they wish for. The fact that the US market has not managed to foster competition should not be seen as an example of a healthy market, it should be seen as an example of regulatory capture. The fact that Mr Alierta takes China as an example is perhaps even more telling. We should not wish for our telecom landscape to look anything like that of the US (let alone China).

The challenge for the US now is to get out of a situation that has seen the recreation of a wireline monopoly. Only regulation can undo that situation. Susan Crawford in the above video throws her hat in the ring for FCC chair. I don’t know how likely it is that she would be nominated, I don’t know enough of US politics. If she does land the job, I certainly don’t envy her that job one bit. But if I was a US citizen, I would make it know loud and clear that I support her for the job.