Prepare Your Network for More Than a Gig

Make no mistake, if you offer a 1 Gigabit-per-second symmetric broadband service you had better be able to deliver the goods. Even with the average usage per broadband* user today sitting at only around 2Mbps levels, a Gigabit Broadband ‘Killer app” still exists – the broadband speed test! Most new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks can handle this widely used application, having the available access capacity to support the burst to Gigabit while supporting average user bandwidth.

While progressive service providers across the U.S. have begun deploying Gigabit broadband service, many of these advanced FTTH networks do not have the dedicated Gigabit links to each home. In fact, many industry analysts were surprised to hear that most larger Gigabit Broadband players are using the fiber sharing GPON technology and not point to point (P2P) Ethernet FTTH technology. The surprise is warranted as P2P, sometimes referred to as Active Ethernet, supports a dedicated fiber and full Gigabit to each user (or at least in the last mile) while GPON supports 2.5Gbps per ‘PON’ port shared by 16 or 32 users to download content (and only half that capacity for uploading files). 64 customer ‘splits’, as they call it, is used as well, but generally only if you are selling lower speed broadband.

The PON connection is currently more than enough to support the typical U.S. home which consumes over 100 times less than a single connection allows. This may even support the steep broadband usage growth curve currently being driven by over-the-top (OTT) services, like Netflix and Hulu. If broadband utilization growth does continue at the yearly rate we have seen for the last 10 years (~40%) it will take 10 years (~47Mbps average peak load) until a 2.5Gbps GPON port can no longer support a Gigabit speed test. The FTTH network could tap out in less than 5 years if an older, less developed GPON platform/network was deployed.

So why is this important? When the next wave of broadband applications—including medical devices, 3D printing, cloud-based gaming, virtual reality, etc.— reach critical mass, the network capacity will surely be tapped out. If service providers don’t prepare their network via upgrades, the life of their fiber assets may be limited.

This lack of development is akin to a highway having extra traffic lanes only part way between major interchanges. This accelerated obsolescence results from the inability to funnel any more than half of the 2.5Gbps per PON traffic into the cloud. Many Gigabit service providers reduce the customer split from 32 to 16 to accommodate higher service rates, but that generally buys you only another couple of years at 40% growth rate before around 100Mbps per user redlines the FTTH GPON platform. Next generation 10G PON technologies will be rolled out in the coming years that will extend the PON exhaustion date twice as far as today’s most robust GPON platforms. That is what 10G versus 2.5G per PON will get you – 1.5-2x the life expectancy. 5 to 10 more years of growth–up until 500Mbps per user on average is consumed during peak times – will exhaust a NGPON2 10G PON port somewhere near 2030. Indeed this likely won’t happen everywhere but is will happen in many places.

Now please realize that we have only been discussing the FTTH service delivery platform sitting in the access or last mile network being impacted. A 1000 or more of these Gigabit services will be supported on a single Next Generation FTTH service delivery platform, pushing each platform to require high performance cloud-facing interfaces supporting near Terabit speeds (Tbps or 1 million Mbps) to effectively transport all the cloud-based applications from a 1000 aggregated Gigabit Broadband users.  Just like the FTTH access network, the middle-mile or metro optical networks will need to be highly scalable to support this massive onramp of broadband traffic. Imagine if we only widened a city’s side streets, but never expanded highway interchanges, overpasses, turnpikes and lane count.

Today’s FTTH platforms generally support only a 10Gbps Ethernet connection between the access network and metro network connecting to the cloud. This is just 1% of the Tbps requirement modeled. Most of today’s second mile or metro networks will need a ‘packet optical’ upgrade as Gigabit Broadband continues to ramp. Packet optical allows exponentially more traffic to be added onto a fiber link by using multiple wavelengths of light – as in dozens and dozens – as opposed to just a few and blinks those lights on and off at 10 or even a 100 times faster than the fiber connected to a home or business, as in FTTH.

Note: I am calling a ‘broadband’ user someone with at least the average broadband speed in the U.S. which is about a 10Mbps connection. These people typically use more traffic during peak time gaming, watching YouTube, running their Roku and Apple TV and (perhaps) illegally streaming sports than the average user with a smaller connection to the Internet.


Joyce Wady is the Vice President Client Services of Connect2 Communications, Inc.

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Is FTTH fast enough for European Operators?

2015 may prove to be a decisive year for European Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) investments. Competition within the European telecoms market is intensifying. Consolidation within the cable providers is creating pan-European multi-service giants. Liberty Global leads the charge, with mobile players like Vodafone moving in on the action. With their infrastructures upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0 for many years now, these multi-service operators are moving to compete with more sophisticated offerings, over and above the traditional headline speed positioning of old. In the cable world it is clear the game has changed. The new weapon of choice is service bundles, with exclusive TV content being the ammunition. As more operators seek to enter the TV arena, increasing demand for content rights is applying upward pressure on the cost. This is now compounded by disruptive Over the Top (OTT) providers like Netflix, Amazon and Google. Only those service providers with true scale will be able to justify the premiums required to secure exclusive access to the most popular content.

As we reflect on the European FTTH market, we continue to see steady progress, coupled with some remarkable growth spurts in the likes of Russia, Romania and Spain. Unfortunately these bursts in activities are not reflective of activities and investments throughout Europe. Recently we witnessed the celebratory news headlines which applauded the EU28 FTTH subscriptions surpassing the 15 Million mark. While this is indeed a fine milestone, and worthy of celebration, we must temper our jubilance with the reality that this reflects a mere 7 percent of households across the EU28. Closer examination of the trajectories of many EU28 markets currently focused on FTTH, will not see them reach parity with copper connections within the next 20 to 35 years.

It is widely acknowledged by most operators that some of the largest barriers they face with FTTH deployment come from the customer base they are seeking to serve. Service rejection and scheduling delays result in substantial erosion of scale economies, drive costs upward and compound delays. Until recently, technologies which shortened copper loops to deliver higher speed broadband were not deemed by the industry to be sufficient for inclusion within a formal FTTH or FTTB classification. With the bulk of Europe’s reported Fibre connections being FTTB, where copper is used for the final service delivery, recognition of the complimentary benefits that the very latest copper technologies bring to accelerating FTTH deployments is welcomed. will permit service providers to embark on a more traditional telecoms technology deployment where the operator is in charge of their deployment schedule, and strong geographical scale economies can be achieved, accelerating deployment times and reducing service delivery costs. Offering speeds which can compete with the strongest cable offerings permits Europe’s operators to elevate themselves above the headline speed marketing campaigns and reinvigorate their campaigns with multi-service bundles enhanced with localised content.

Ironically it seems that the antidote to Europe’s FTTH woes may prove to be a sprinkling of copper.

Ronan Kelly is ADTRAN Chief Technology Officer for the EMEA and APAC regions

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Gigabit Broadband: Watching, Waiting, Wishing

With the current surge of Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployments happening in the United States, and the resulting  1 Gigabit-per-second broadband services being offered, a lot of service providers are watching intently as they work through their own Gigabit plans. They are waiting for more data points regarding the tangible benefits being bestowed upon these broadband trail blazers. As they take stock of their current network capabilities, they are also wishing they could limit the inevitable network impacts and deployment costs tied to rolling out a wide-area Gigabit service to their subscriber base. FTTH Broadband, and more so Gigabit Broadband, comes with a cost. That said, not offering Gigabit Broadband comes with a cost as well.

So why Gig?

What are the tangible market drivers that are leading dozens of service providers to offer–and hundreds of communities to subscribe to–Gigabit Broadband? For me, there are four key drivers that push any network operator to invest in their network in order to offer new services – and Gigabit Broadband is no different. One could argue that in some ways it is a “poster child” of sorts for why innovate? Why invest? Why Gig?

  1. Economic and community development
    Broadband is as crucial to the lifeblood of a community as running water and reliable power. Dependable, ultra-fast broadband attracts new industries to town, supports higher wage jobs and underpins new educational, industrial and medical services advancements.
  1. Preparedness for future high bandwidth end-user applications
    It’s not all about supporting new, fatter UHD 4k video or unicast Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming being used by cord-cutters who are replacing their bandwidth-economizing broadcast TV. Cloud-based services architectures are highly disruptive and the bandwidth consuming innovation that will come from this will be mind-boggling.
  1. Competitive differentiation/market share capture
    Don’t wait – innovate. Avoid irrelevance by staving off the insurgence of Google, AT&T, CenturyLink, and Comcast. The last thing any service provider wants to hear is, “We already got Gig here – you’re too late. Move along.”
  1. Perceived leadership/marketing campaign to drive ‘halo effect’

Subscribers choose progressive, leading companies even if they’re just choosing the base broadband package.

Applying Experience, Incorporating Wisdom

The pace of change in technology is accelerating faster than ever before, being driven by social change and the need for community development in a hyper-competitive, hyper-connected world. Broadband investment is shifting from service coverage to delivering super-fast broadband speeds to serve communities as they upgrade technology. It has taken our industry nearly a century to realize there is an infinite demand for bandwidth and we must stop forecasting future network needs based on today’s application requirements. Many of us believe our industry is part of something bigger than we might imagine and Gigabit Broadband will be an integral part of that something, whatever it will be.



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Could Superfast Broadband be a UK Vote Winner?

Prime Minister David Cameron and thousands of other candidates will stand for election to the UK parliament on May 7th as the British public chooses its 650 local MPs and decides who will form a new national government for the next five years.

Will the party promising most on broadband get the keys to 10 Downing Street?

It seems unlikely; broadband isn’t featuring as more than a fringe issue compared to matters like keeping the UK’s membership of the European Union.

But perhaps the electorate and the politicians are looking at it the wrong way because health and education services, local transport infrastructure, job security and stable economic growth remain key battleground issues for every party’s campaigns.  Each of these is massively influenced by the presence of robust, ubiquitous superfast broadband infrastructure!  And that’s important because this is infrastructure that the UK doesn’t really have right now.

The UK lags behind many other European countries in average broadband speeds, largely because of the lack – until very recently – of mass rollouts of superfast deep-fibre broadband infrastructure.  In the latest FTTH Council ranking of FTTB/FTTH nations, the UK doesn’t even meet the 1% penetration threshold to qualify, while countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria and Macedonia do.

Successive UK governments have promised to arrest this imbalance by stimulating investment in broadband infrastructure – particularly in ‘hard to reach’ rural areas – and progress has been frustrating for many communities where broadband really has become an election issue.

No one yet seems sure whether current plans to see through a pilot project of providing the final 5% with basic broadband coverage by 2020 will be honoured in the next parliament.  Or the strategy to reach 95% broadband deployment to premises by 2017…

Anne McIntosh MP, who heads up the UK parliamentary committee on rural affairs, said this recently: “We are concerned that the current broadband rollout targets are based on inaccurate assumptions that universal basic broadband coverage has largely been achieved when the reality is that many rural communities are still struggling with no access, or slow broadband speeds.”

With BT and Virgin Media locked in an arms race for faster and faster speeds across the country – and many other providers committed to next generation and even Gigabit levels – the future looks encouraging for UK broadband.  For many in rural areas, the future seems less certain.  Here, superfast broadband has stopped being thought of as a privilege and is now considered a citizen’s right.


Ronan Kelly 150x150 Could Superfast Broadband be a UK Vote Winner?

Ronan Kelly is ADTRAN Chief Technology Officer for the EMEA and APAC regions


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The Benefit of Gigabit: Customer Insight

While the benefits of Gigabit deployments far outweigh any criticism, some skeptics question why companies would go to the trouble of rolling out ultra-fast broadband networks today. For those opponents, a recent announcement from Jackson Energy Authority (JEA), a municipal utility, should put to rest any concerns.

Just last week, it was announced that the city of Jackson, Tennessee and JEA have been named a US Ignite partner. The city wide fiber network provided by JEA, supports the community’s evolution into a globally connected commercial center.

Thanks to the announcement, JEA is attracting national attention as a direct result of its decision to upgrade its network  to deploy symmetrical Gigabit services to its 18,000 subscribers. Not only is JEA helping the local community prosper, but it’s being recognized for having the technology infrastructure in place to be an accelerator for economic, educational and community benefit.

Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist stated, “We compete against cities from across the country for economic development projects, and the recognition as a US Ignite city underscores the fact that Jackson is the best city for 21st century business and industrial recruitment due to the first-class fiber infrastructure that JEA has deployed.”

“The decision to deploy Gigabit services to our customers was easy. All we had to do was look at the incredible benefits, including stimulating economic development and how it could transform the community as a whole, to see that Gigabit was the way to go,” said Ben Lovins, senior vice president, telecom for Jackson Energy Authority. “The residential and business customers we talk to have high expectations for their Internet experience and this shows that we are on the right path to enabling future growth.”

Jackson Ignite – the city of Jackson and JEA’s partnership with US Ignite – delivers on the community evolution objectives from ADTRAN’s Enabling Communities, Connecting Lives campaign. So if after reading about the Jackson Ignite national partnership you’re still not convinced that Gigabit is valuable for the business case, continue checking with ADTRAN as more communities are set to be announced. Gigabit is the real deal and service providers are cashing in on new customers, new revenue opportunities and staying ahead of the competition.

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