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One Leg in Europe, One Leg in Asia

20 Jun

The Two Towers

As some of you may have heard on the grapevine already, I am moving to Asia over the summer. More specifically, Shanghai. I am moving for family-related reasons, but I am very excited about the opportunities this move represents for me professionally.

First of all, I should reassure the friends, colleagues and customers in Europe that have been kind enough to trust my company Diffraction Analysis to assist them with their various needs for insight in the last years: we will continue to do so.

I’m not turning my back on Europe, far from it: there are many valuable projects, companies and initiatives here that are examples for the rest of the world and we will keep looking for them, analyzing them and meeting with their representatives. I will personally be traveling back to Europe on a regular basis to connect with customers, prospects, policy makers and more generally anyone in the broadband and telecom ecosystem worth talking to.

I see moving to Asia as an opportunity to broaden our understanding of best in class companies and policies. I think that the Asian NGA story has yet to be told ; I keep hearing partial analysis or misplaced examples that simply aren’t enough to understand how countries that are 10 years ahead of Europe in infrastructure deployment have evolved and what that means for Europe and the US.

So part of the opportunity for me will be in being really close to two key markets, Japan and South Korea that I will strive to understand more thoroughly. Of course, proximity to Hong-Kong, Singapore and Malaysia will also be opportunities for better insight as well. Here are some of the questions that are already on my curiosity list:

  • why is NTT changing its corporate structure now (and only now) and how does it affected the growth of Japanese next-generation broadband (or lack thereof)?
  • how much profit (if any) have the Korean broadband operators made with fiber, and assuming (as its often told in the West) that they didn’t make profit, how much has the rest of the Korean IT economy benefited from highly adopted ultra-fast broadband?
  • is Singapore turning into the footprint for a Smart City built from the ground up, with infrastructure as an enabler as opposed to a constraint? Also, what are the impacts of a three-tier market model (infra, wholesale, retail) on Smart City initiatives?
  • is Malaysia paving the way for emerging market connectivity, demonstrating the value of mass deployed fiber for economic development?

There are many more fascinating stories to be told, around what’s happening in Indonesia, the turmoils of the Australian NBN, and of course the Chinese fiber story itself, and I hope to have the opportunity to tell all of these stories once I’m there.

So if you’ve been following me from Europe or the US, rest assured that it’s not the end of the story by a long stretch: it’s a new chapter, richer in meaningful examples and useful insight. And I’ve you’ve been following me from Asia, please ping me: I’ll be there full-time from August and expect to be fully operational by September.

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!

Coming over to New Zealand

26 Aug

At the end of this week I’m leaving for New Zealand where I’ll be staying 8 days.
New Zealand is one of the most interesting broadband markets right now, having put in place a clever scheme to ensure fiber broadband deployment and having implemented structural separation in the process (for more on these topics, see our report Can the New Zealand NGA Model Be Replicated?)
I’m going to be in Auckland and in Wellington on the following dates:
Sept 3-4th: Wellington, attending the Chorus Vision Launch on the 4th.
Sept 5-6th: Auckland, speaking at the Chorus Connections Event on the 5th.
Sept 9th: Auckland
Sept. 10th: Wellington
Sept. 11-12th: Auckland
I have a good number of meetings planned, but I will have some time available so if anyone there should want to meet, please get in touch!

Table Ronde du G9+ le 24 Juin

12 Jun

(Apologies for non-French speakers but since this is an announcement for a French event in French, it didn’t seem to make much sense writing it in English.)


Le 24 Juin, le G9+, un Think Tank formé d’anciens élèves des Grandes Ecoles travaillant dans l’IT ou les Télécoms organise une table-ronde débat au titre provocateur:

Opérateurs Télécoms: Dinosaures ou Mutants.

J’y serais (a priori pas en tant qu’intervenant). Afin de mettre en avant certains des sujets qui y seront débattus, le G9+ m’a demandé de participer à une discussion vidéo avec Nicolas Martinez Dubost du G9+ et Régis Castagné d’Interoute France.Voici un court teaser de ce débat, qui est accessible en version longue sur le site du G9+ (il faut ouvrir un compte).

See you next week in London!

15 Feb

Fiber Hues by Benoît Felten (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Next week is the 2013 annual conference of the FTTH Council Europe in London. It’s at the Excel on February 19-21st.

Diffraction Analysis will have a booth in the Bronze Booth Area. We hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in learning more about Diffraction Analysis’ reports, our strategy workshops and our consulting work, please walk past our booth and ask. I should be there most of the time, and if not just drop me an email at and I’ll respond.

I will be visible twice during the event:

  • I’m moderating Session 4 at 4.30 PM on the 20th. This session is about the film industry and how fiber broadband can change their approach to producing and marketing content. Should be unusual and interesting, I’m quite excited about it.
  • I’m also presenting the results of our study on benefits of fiber broadband for real-estate players on the 21st at 9.15 AM as part of Session 8. It’s good stuff (if I say so myself) on a topic that’s been under-appreciated in the past, I think.

In addition to this, we will be announcing two new reports released next week:

  • The first is the long awaited report on FTTH Services entitled Building a Successful NGA Service Portfolio. This report is the most in-depth analysis of portfolio construction and pricing approaches that I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing it myself. It will answer important questions like how a portfolio should be structured, how to create a portfolio that generates take-up without sacrificing ARPU if you don’t want to, when to compete with OTT and when to partner, etc. It pulls from dozens of examples of portfolios and services all around the world. If you’re a service provider looking at NGA or in need of a fresh approach to your portfolio, this is the report for you.
  • The second is a report that Diffraction Analysis is releasing in partnership with Seim & Partners, a leading German NGA Consultancy and it’s entitled Fiber Networks in Germany: Data, facts and analysis. Seim & Partner did a massive job at analyzing the German broadband market to identify the trends and opportunities for FTTx in that market. This report is much larger (but at the same price) as what we normally publish, and it’s indispensable if you’re a vendor looking at a good grasp on the German market (with lots of detailed information on the set-up, scope and technology choices of large and small players), if you’re a service provider looking at partnership opportunities in Germany to leverage your NGA offerings, or if you’re a utility considering FTTx, as Germany is one of the markets where the utilities have been the most active.

Finally, just for a bit of added fun, I’m setting up a competition during the event. Participants will enter to win a high quality large print of a fiber photo of their choice, shipped directly to their home, simply by visiting Diffraction Analysis on our booth in the Bronze Booth Area in the Analyst Corner. For those of you who can’t attend, I might do a little something on twitter too. Stay tuned!


Brussels Event on Municipal Broadband

31 Jan

I will be speaking next week on Thursday February 7th (14.00-18.00) at an event organised in Brussels by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL) entitled Local and regional authorities: Key players for broadband rollout.

I will be highlighting the key findings about our recent study and white paper on Stokab, and detailing how we think the Stokab model could be replicated 20 years on and where.

The event will also feature notable Swedish speakers on topics like wholesale price regulation, and the economic benefits of municipal broadband deployments.

The event is free to attend provided you book with Jörgen Sandström of SKL at

I will be in Brussels from the 6th onwards with some spare time, so if you want to meet for a drink and talk shop, get in touch!



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).



Live tweeting from the FTTH Council APAC Conference

9 May

To my surprise and delight, twitter is working from China (or maybe only from the Shanghai Pudong Shangri-La?) That means I can (and will) live tweet from the event. Since there's no official hashtag that I know of, I'll be tweeting under the hashtag #ftthapac12.

Off to Shanghai for FTTH Council Conference

7 May

This morning I'm flying out to Shanghai for the FTTH Council Asia Pacific conference.

I will be speaking there, presenting preliminary results from a paper entitled "Measuring the Impact of 200µ fiber designs on FTTH deployment costs in China". If you recall, we had done a similar exercice in the context of a Western European P2P deployment last year (the results of which were presented in Milan last year). This time, we modelled a PON deployment in Beijing. Very interesting results (if I say so myself). 

If you're interested in attending, my presentation is at 2 PM on Thursday 10th. 

If you want to otherwise meet or chat, let me know. Just send me an email or look me up at the event itself! 

FTTH Council Europe Conference Take-Aways

29 Feb


The Diffraction Analysis Booth

It's been a little over a week since the 2012 edition of the FTTH Council Europe conference ended in Munich. It's been the most attended of the Council's conferences ever, and apparently has become the largest FTTH Conference worldwide with over 3300 delegates.

For Diffraction Analysis, business-wise this is a show that cannot be missed: most of our customers are present in one form or another and there are opportunities to pursue as well. This year, thanks to the support of my colleagues Costas, Guillaume and Herman I was able to attend more sessions and do more stuff "off-booth" than the previous years, so I got a better sense for the content of the conference presentations.

To be perfectly honest, it is a little puzzling to me that the conference keeps growing in size. For the most part, we see the same people there every year, and while I don't know the proportion of service provider representatives to vendor representatives, I suspect there's still more of the latter than there are of the former. That's definitely going to have to change if the show is to keep its growing momentum.

The content, in my opinion will also need to shift. I understand that vendors are sponsoring the event and want their spot in the limelight, but in all honesty, most of their presentations are little more than thinly disguised commercial pitches. It's a shame because many of these vendors have representatives in their midst that are capable and would probably be willing to contribute more meaningful content to the conversation(s).

Still, I shouldn't be too sweeping. I was chairing a session with vendors talking myself and learned a number of really fascinating things during these sessions, a sign that things are getting better (even if I think it's a little slow going…) And there were a lot of non-vendor sessions with much more interesting content.

Generally, the big topics that emerged at the conference were: 

  • public intervention: the role of local governments and public utilities in fiber deployment was particularly upfront this year. This is probably due to the conference being held in Germany where local utilities are more advanced on these topics. Michael Curri of SNG gave a very good presentation on how to measure the impact of broadband on businesses at a local level. I unfortunately missed the Ericsson presentation in that same session that apparently yielded very impressive numbers tying broadband and economic growth. Need to dig that one up. 
  • financing: there were a number of studies presented that examined financing models. I was a little dissapointed that there weren't more financial people speaking at the conference, but maybe that's because they tend to be not too talkative about these things in general. Still, I think this conference should be the hub for companies looking for funding to meet with funders looking for investment vessels…

There was another topic that was discussed but not very visible: FTTC. Ray LeMasitre of Lightreading wrote a much publicized piece during the show about this called Enough FTTH (Fiber to the Hype). Essentially, he says the Council shot stop criticising alternative technologies for broadband as they provide useful alternatives. 

I agree with Ray to some extent, but the FTTH Council isn't just "an industry pressure group" as Ray puts it. It's a group formed exclusively of vendors, many of whom have no interest in copper technologies whatsoever. So what he calls a bias is, in my opinion, the council's DNA.

Furthermore, the wording that Ray uses in his piece is telling of what I think is a fundamental issue with the industry and the service provider worldview right now: "the FTTH Council Europe's representatives [...] feel the need to take a kick at one of the technical alternatives [FTTC]". I don't see FTTH and FTTC as alternatives. Just because a service provider deploys FTTC doesn't mean they can ditch their FTTH plans: they'll come in handy soon enough. These technologies are complimentary, no substitutable.

However, and on this I agree with Ray, the Council isn't really articulating that vision either. Or at least not much. There were some interesting mentions of FTTC, as in Frans Van Camp's presentation on the appetite of consumers for the solutions offered by the various technologies (cable, FTTC, FTTH) in the dutch market, based on quantitative data. In one of my sessions, a vendor also mentioned FTTC as a potential solution, but I don't think there was necessarily a vision there, it was more a way of saying (as I read it): "if you're not keen on FTTH, we can still accomodate you".

The next FTTH Council Conference will be held in London. That's an odd choice, but perhaps one that is aimed at resolving the above conundrum: the UK market, despite a number of vocal FTTH initiatives that still have limited scale to this day, is dominated by an incumbent that's very gung-ho on FTTC. Will we see a marriage of the two technologies consummated in London, I wonder?