It is that time of year again, asked questions by students and so I will now be fair and post the response here…

Questions:
Thanks for offering to help Bob I really appreciate it, here is a list of questions, sorry there’s a lot of them I know your busy so I don’t expect an answer for all of them any help you can give would great, hope to hear from you soon:

1 What do you know about our current cable infrastructure in terms of TV delivery, its limitations and how it compares to other countries?

2 Do you see a bright future for Fibre To The Home (FTTH) in the UK?

3 What advantages/disadvantages can you see to FTTH?

4 What would the environmental impact be in the UK if FTTH took off?

5 What are your thoughts about the decision made by
government in the 1980’s to turn down BT’s offer of rolling out FTTH and splitting the cost?

6 Do you know what other country’s are doing in terms of FTTH services and how they are implementing these changes, for example Verizon in the states?

7 Do you know of any projects in the UK which involve installing fibre to the home, for example Telsey’s proposal based near Birmingham tilted ‘Walsall at the speed of light’.

8 If this country were to adopt FTTH how do you think we would cope with the change, what do you think would happen, what kind of time scale do you think this kind of change would have and how much would it cost?

9 Do you know of any other countries that have installed FTTH and how the public received it and how this implementation happened and how much did it cost the government?

Answers:

1. The UK cable infrastructure is a collection of old and new, the fact that there is only one DVB-C company in the UK means there is a difference between UK and most other countries which have a selection of providers depending on the region. In many respects the UK is quite advanced because it is an almost entirely digital implementation, many countries have yet to achieve switch-over for their entire network. Many customers are on very low ARPU (average revenue per user) and it is difficult to justify the upgrade expense.

2) FTTH is a very expensive prospect for all the homes in the UK. In countries like Korea where there is a dominance of multiple dwelling units (many people live in flats or apartments) it is relatively low cost to provide FTTH, but the UK has a many detached or semi-detached single household dwellings each needing an individual approach. It is more likely that FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) will be prolific because it is significantly cheaper. This involves moving the exchange to the green cabinet near the home and thus cuts out the longest part of the route to the home. A single Fibre pair just needs to be run to each cabinet to supply high speed connectivity. Exchange hardware is now so small it can be easily placed inside cabinets and there is a saving in cabinet back-haul wiring which allows the placement.

3) See 2. Another disadvantage is that there is concern over the selling of capacity of very high speed local loop connections. In the current LLU arrangement an ISP can place their own equipment in the exchange, but there will be no room in cabinets for LLU so BT will have to supply this service. LLU providers will have to purchase capacity wholesale from BT’s 21CN network. With a dramatic increase in bandwidth availability, will the core switches in London need to be enhanced or will traffic have to be more intelligently routed.

4) There will be an environmental impact of the installation of the new fibre infrastructure (digging, materials, disruption). But there may also be a significant saving in energy costs as the copper lines need no longer be driven over such long distances and newer exchange equipment will reduce energy consumption. However there may be issues with emergency power for traditional telephones attached to this system. It is currently taken for granted that phones will work during a local power outage, but this may not be the case where the phone exchange only supplies light to the home.

5) It was perhaps unclear at the time that the capacity would be required, because this was before the computer revolution revealed how much bandwidth would be required. Hindsight is always clear, but I prefer to respect the decisions made at the time and work with what has been learnt.

6) FTTH is expensive as an upgrade path, but where some cable needs to be run then it is now equally easy to run fibre or copper. As a new investment it is wise, however the business case needs to be balanced. There are some commercially run housing projects in the UK and this is progressing well: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7881686.stm

7) See 7 and http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/24/h20_sewer_rollout/

8) I think the change would be slow because there is a great divide between different classes of users. If we are lucky then competition will force the investment to be amortised over the long-term. Estimates are very wide as to how much the investments will cost the operators, but I think the cost to the consumers must match the current market pricing for broadband.

9) http://lw.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=ARTCL&ARTICLE_ID=271114&VERSION_NUM=2&p=13&dcmp=FTTXNews
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/03/ftth_deployment_spreads/

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