FTTH industry screams for bandwidth

Oct. 15, 2007
ORLANDO, FL-Dubbed “The Content Revolution: Filling the Pipe,” this year’s Fiber to the Home Conference (held September 30-October 4 in Orlando), examined futuristic technologies, services, and applications.

ORLANDO, FL-Dubbed “The Content Revolution: Filling the Pipe,” this year’s Fiber to the Home Conference (held September 30-October 4 in Orlando), examined futuristic technologies, services, and applications. From the opening keynote address by Bret Swanson, senior fellow, Technology and Democracy Project, at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, the conference focused on the need for bandwidth, bandwidth, and yet more bandwidth. Swanson coined the term “Exaflood” to characterize the coming flood of Exabytes over the Internet. For those unfamiliar with the exact size of an Exabyte, Swanson provided a definition: A Kilobyte is 103 bytes, a Terabyte is 1012, and an Exabyte is a whopping 1018 bytes! Put another way, 1 Exabyte = 1 trillion Megabytes.

While one trillion Megabytes may seem hard to fathom, Swanson was not referring to a bandwidth benchmark that is decades away. On the contrary, the growing popularity of such applications as peer-to-peer file sharing, online gaming, and video conferencing has placed the Exabyte on our proverbial doorstep. Take YouTube, a popular topic of discussion at this year’s conference. Today, YouTube accounts for about 7% of all U.S. Internet traffic, consuming 50 Petabytes per month or 600 Petabytes a year-which is greater than the entire Internet in the year 2000. What’s more incredible is the fact that this content is, for the most part, entirely user-generated. According to Swanson, all professionally produced content, including broadcast and cable TV and radio content, comprises about 100 Petabytes per year. YouTube, by contrast, currently streams that amount of data in two months.

On the gaming front, a single, massively parallel game with 1 million players could generate 100 Petabytes of traffic per month-more than an Exabyte per year or one-tenth the size of today’s Internet, said Swanson. Video conferencing also has the potential to boost Internet traffic by orders of magnitude. Today, Swanson reported, the U.S. generates about 20 Exabytes of voice traffic per year. But the move to videophones would generate about 200 Exabytes at least or about ten times the size of the existing world Internet. “And that’s a conservative estimate,” he noted. For his part, Swanson believes that FTTH may be the key industry for the health of the overall U.S. economy in the next five to ten years.

Two million FTTH homes

The number of North American homes served by optical fiber reached 2.142 million, according to figures released by Michael Render of RVA Market Research (Tulsa, OK) during the closing keynote session of the FTTH Conference. The number of North American homes passed by FTTH infrastructure now exceeds 9.55 million, while the number of homes to which FTTH service is being marketed is just under 8 million, Render revealed.

While a joint TIA/FTTH Council press release issued recently implied these figures were for the U.S. only, Render confirmed that the numbers included all of North America. However, he pointed out that the U.S. accounts for the overwhelming majority of FTTH activity within the continent.

Verizon, not surprisingly, is responsible for the lion’s share of North American FTTH deployments; Render says his research shows the carrier has connected 1.44 million homes, approximately 69% of the total North American number. Render says Verizon is joined by 369 other service providers in the North American FTTH market. Of these, other incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) account for 16.4% of connected homes, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) 6.3%, CLEC/developers 5.4%, and municipalities 3.5%.

These non-regional Bell operating company (non-RBOC) providers enjoy an average take rate of 51.8%. The overall take rate for FTTH in North America is 26.8%, a number Render expects will increase as Verizon continues to shift from passing homes to marketing to them.

In the U.S., FTTH subscriber totals increased 112% over the past year, making it the fastest-growing major market in the world. Japan’s growth over the past year was 55% and Europe’s 35%, Render says. The U.S. market offers plenty of room for growth, as Render says the current FTTH subscriber totals represent only 1.9% of the addressable market.

Meanwhile, FTTH Council North America president Joe Savage expressed optimism that Canadian activity will soon represent more than a small fraction of Render’s current totals. He pointed to the upcoming roll out Telus plans as an example. Sheldon Sitter, gigabit passive optical network (GPON) build program manager for the carrier, told attendees during the conference that Telus, which operates primarily in the western half of the country, expects to begin deploying FTTH infrastructure in greenfield applications this year. The carrier will address overbuild scenarios “where it makes sense,” he added. As Sittler’s title implies, Telus will deploy a GPON infrastructure; while Sittler said that a final determination of equipment suppliers has not been made, his presentation showed photographs of his technicians working with Siemens gear.

-Stephen Hardy is editor-in-chief and Meghan Fuller is senior editor at Lightwave Magazine.

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