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White Paper: Connectivity Models for Developing Economies

3 Mar

ConnectivityThumbThere are recurring misconceptions about broadband in emerging markets. These are considered “truths” and repeated in newspaper articles and at telecom events. For example:

  • “There’s no space for wireline services in developing economies!”
  • “FTTH in emerging markets? You’ve got to be joking!”
  • “There will never be a way to deliver mobile services outside of urban areas in these markets!”

But the urban mobile model that is often described is not a universal truth, far from it. A few months ago the Google policy team contacted Diffraction Analysis and asked us to analyze alternative connectivity models were and how they worked. The result is this white paper entitled Connectivity Models for Developing Economies. In this paper we examine a number of cases that do not conform to the “standard” model being displayed for developing economies. We also examine policy approaches that seem to have made a measurable difference.

This paper does not offer a silver bullet solution for all developing economies: there’s no such thing. It does however analyse interesting case studies and looks at the replicable aspects of some of these models.

You can find the paper on SSRN through the following link: Connectivity Models for Developing Economies.

FTTH Council Europe 2014: less gloom, more pragmatism

24 Feb

Stockholm in Winter

Last week I was in Stockholm all week for the 2014 edition of the FTTH Council Europe’s annual conference. It was a very good week for me (though sleep deprivation nearly got me in the end) with lots of great meetings with customers, potential customers, fellow analysts / consultants and friends. I’m not going to write a long analysis of the event (got to catch up on the million things I couldn’t get done while there) but here’s a set bullet points that summarize my feelings about it:

  • the atmosphere at the event was miles better than last year. Much more positive, better interaction, better content (at least for the little I got to attend),
  • the Council, while not endorsing VDSL in any form seems a little more relaxed around the idea that there are alternatives that make more sense for some players in some situations. It’s a good thing: more pragmatism cannot hurt the industry,
  • key finding: the second wave of FTTH deployment in Sweden is happening under a totally different model; Skanova’s CEO stated that customers were willing to pay 2000€ to get their connection installed, which would pay for most of the up-front cost,
  • the above statement didn’t surprise me as much as it could have: in between the results of our qualitative study on real-estate last year (and some follow-up work I’ll talk to you about soon) and the quantitative study on attitudes, usage and satisfaction this year, it’s quite obvious to me that most Swedes know that fibering up your home is a sound investment that also delivers great quality services (or the other way around),
  • said quantitative study was very well received, and exposes what I believe to be the first ever usage & attitudes analysis of FTTH users in a mature market (Sweden in this case). Hopefully there will be other iterations in other countries,
  • key finding: there is a third (besides Andorra Telecom and Jersey Telecom) that is doing fiber/copper substitution, on a much larger scale. It’s Telekom Indonesia, and their plans are quite advanced, targeting millions of users. Will need to investigate that one more fully,
  • key finding: Mobiliy (Saudi Arabia) is really one of the most interesting FTTH operators, very smart in its approach. I knew this from their technical operations, but their marketing operations are just as smart,
  • there’s a quasi-religious zeal in the promotion of the Swedish Open Access Model in some parts of the market there. I’ve long been aware that the model is not as widespread as it’s advertised to be, and has some deleterious side-effects on the industry, so tread with caution and don’t buy (all) the hype. It’s worked for Sweden (at some cost) but isn’t necessarily the best way to implement Open Access in my opinion,
  • key finding: TWDM is a damn interesting technology, especially in its regulatory implications. Another thing I need to dig into deeper,
  • finally, there was one thing that puzzled me deeply, and that is the Operator Award received by Vodafone. Sure, they have some FTTH in Portugal, and might have a bit in Spain soon, but for a player their size, they’re not exactly commited to the technology. Maybe it’s like Obama’s Nobel Peace Price. Let’s hope it works better…

Thanks to all of you who came by the Diffraction Analysis booth to chat or discuss collaboration. Kudos to the FTTH Council who pulled (in my opinion) the best annual conference of those I’ve attended to far. See you next year in Warsaw!

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.

All Diffraction Analysis Reports Half-Price (or More)!

25 Feb

Last week I received the FTTH Council Europe Indivudual Award for outstanding contribution to the Industry (in case you didn’t already know) so to celebrate the occasion I decided to put all of our previously released reports at half-price or more for the next two weeks. You can find details on the operation here.

Here are the reports affected by the promotion:

I hope you will help me spread the word!

Roaring start to the New Year

8 Jan

Rainbow Fiber Paths (CC-BY-NC-SA Ben Felten)

We’re only a week into 2013 and already there’s more topics to cover than I can conceivably talk about. And I’m not even attending CES!!!

So we’ll be talking about many things this week, between Free’s crazy attempt at arm-wrestling Google, Israel’s electricity company going forward with national FTTH plans and Cisco finally dropping the gorgeously doomed Umi.

Meanwhile, I wanted to point you to Diffraction Analysis’ new year post, which highlights some of the things you can expect from the company in the first few months of the year.

I wanted to give you a little present as well.

On the personal side of my life last year, I worked a lot on my photography skills, and one of the things I always wanted to be able to shoot well was Fiber Optic Lights. I’ve gotten decent at it (I think), and I thought I’d share the joy around by releasing 42 of my best Fiber Optic shots as Creative Commons photos. These photos are all CC-BY-NC-SA which means in a nutshell that you can alter them as long as you reshare them, and you can use them in any non-commercial context which (in my book) includes blogging and powerpoint presentations. I hope it’s useful to you all. The individual photos can all be found here, but to make life easy for everyone, I set them all up in a pinboard so you can pick and choose.

If you want to use the photos in a commercial context, please get in touch.

Also, they can all be purchased as prints which I’m sure would look great in any FTTx exec’s office!

Happy New Year to you all, here’s hoping we’ll meet face to face!

Diffraction Analysis in Wired Business

3 Oct

An article in Wired Business written by Susan Crawford and published on Oct. 2nd (entitled We Can’t All Be in Google’s Kansas: A Plan for Winning the Bandwidth Race) mentions Diffraction Analysis’ New Zealand study and highlights the positive aspects of the New Zealand NGA model. Most importantly, Susan Crawford points to the core differentiator of the NZ model: that public money should alleviate the deployment risks, particularly take-up risk. Our report is still available for purchase!

White Paper: In-depth examination of Stokab

2 Oct

Stokab has become one of these landmark municipal broadband projects that many people quote and talk about but that until now had never really been studied in depth. A few months ago, Google approached us and asked if we would undertake such a study with their sponshorship and publish the results. The ideas was not to present the project as anything it isn’t and neither was it to push for its replication, the idea was to look dispassionately at how Stokab got where it is, the benefits that the City of Stockholm derives from Stokab and to examine how the project might realistically be replicated and by whom.

The paper, entitled Stockholm’s Stokab: A Blueprint for Ubiquitous Fiber Connectivity? is now available on SSRN. It’s an in-depth 15 page read and examines all the issues above and more. In particular, it highlights the financial aspects of the Stokab story: where did the money come from, how did the structure fare in the early years, etc. In case that wasn’t made clear, it’s available to all who want to download it. I would be very curious to have feedback from people interested in discussing its contents.

Successful FTTH Service Strategies Replay

20 Jul

The replay for the webinar Benoît Felten led for the FTTH Council Europe on Service Strategies in May is available on replay on Vimeo.

It’s embedded here. It contains a number of key data points for network providers looking at FTTH investment and policy makers wanting to unravel fact from propaganda.

The (Slow) Fiber Revolution: My speech at Freedom to Connect

24 May

Freedom to Connect is a unique event in technology. The speakers there are just not the usual bunch of speakers, a mix of long-term visionaries and disruptive entrepreneurs. I felt a little pedestrian myself amongst that crowd, but I console myself by thinking that as exciting as vision and disruption are, occasionally you need down-to-earth pragmatism as well. 

Anyway, my presentation (and all the other ones too) is on youtube. Mine talks about the emergence of superfast broadband around the world, the looming issue in broadband quality of experience, the essential failure of broadband policy and some recommended solutions. 

(Caveat: I was jetlagged, and it took me a while to find my stride, so the end of the presentation is somewhat rushed, for which I apologise).



Diffraction Analysis NGA Workshop in Bogota

19 May

In two weeks time on June 1st, my excellent ex-colleague Wally Swain and I will be running a one-day workshop on NGA business models in Bogota, Colombia, on the backend of the ACIEM Telecom Conference.

The purpose of the workshop is to share our knowledge on NGA business models in general and on Latin American opportunities in particular. Topics covered will include: 

Session 1: Next Generation Access Dynamics

  • Next Generation Access Deployment Around the World will offer an overview of FTTx deployment around the world and assess the main lessons learned from these various experiences. Many of these will be examined in more detail later during the day.
  • Drivers to NGA are important to understand the incentives for different types of players to enter the NGA field. While some drivers may be universal (appeal for quality business services, increase in bandwidth demand, etc.) they affect different players in different ways.
  • NGA in Latin America will present and analyze initiatives in Next-Generation Access in Latin America, look at trends and commonalities and attempt to anticipate how the wireline market will play out in light of these emerging approaches.

Session 2: The Specificities of NGA Business Models

  • Business Model Basics will look into the core cost and revenue constituents of an FTTx business model and examine the implications of these large masses on the economics of offering FTTx services.
  • Alternative Business Models and Optimization Strategies will explore alternative approaches to building the business model, including FTTC vs. FTTx comparisons, co-investment approaches and wholesale models. It will also present proven strategies to enhance the core business model components and their impact on return on investment.
  • Implications of NGA regulation will examine regulatory frameworks to NGA investment and their potential implications on business models.

Session 3: Technology, Marketing and Services

  • The impact of technology choices on business models essentially lies in two areas: cost optimization and service or evolution limitations. The different approaches and their implications will be presented and evaluated.
  • Go-To-Market and Service Strategies are often more important to profitability of FTTx approaches than technical choices. The go-to-market approach to get customers to switch platforms are very different from what is commonly used in mobile or broadband. Services act both as vectors for attractiveness (thus getting customers to switch) and revenue generating units. Bothe these aspects will be examined in this section.

More details and registration information can be found at