Slipping to the wrong side of the broadband ledger

The growth in FTTP being rolled out around the world has grown rapidly and in The Australian the reality facing Australia is discussed that shows Australia heading in the wrong direction as less fibre and more copper is being used for the National Broadband Network.

Read the full article below

The global growth of all fibre access network penetration has significantly increased during 2015 as global broadband subscribers reached 751 million. All fibre access is now growing significantly faster than the Coalition Government’s preferred cable broadband (HFC) and Fibre to the Node (FTTN).

Growth in the number of subscribers using Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) was 60.6 per cent in the final quarter of 2015, Fibre to the Node (FTTN) 14.7 per cent, cable broadband 6.9 per cent and legacy copper based broadband access technologies (ADSL, ADSL2+) declined by 18.7 per cent.

There are now more FTTP subscribers worldwide than cable broadband subscribers and this trend highlights the rapid growth of all fibre access networks over the past decade when compared to cable broadband that has been around since the mid-1940s.

According to the US broadband market intelligence provider Point Topic the fastest growth in all fibre access network penetration was is in Asia and in one quarter during 2015 China delivered FTTP to more homes than the entire South Korean copper subscriber base. Vietnam has continued to grow as a FTTP market with a 25 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of 2015 and has nearly quadrupled its FTTP broadband subscribers over the past couple of years.

The growth in all fibre access networks and partial fibre access networks (FTTx) including FTTN, Fibre to the Basement (FTTB) and Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp) means that copper based access networks continue to decrease in market share and have now slipped below the market share enjoyed by fibre access networks.

Cable broadband continues to maintain about a 19 per cent global market share and cable broadband growth is being offset by the much higher growth in fibre broadband leaving cable broadband with a reasonably static overall market share mainly due to the cable broadband dominant US market.

Global growth in satellite and wireless broadband during the fourth quarter of 2015 was 8.5 per cent and 10.5 per cent respectively and the growth in satellite and wireless broadband highlights the effort being made to provide broadband to less economic regions and the “hard to get to” customers.

The key drivers behind the 60.6 per cent growth in FTTP and 14.7 per cent growth in FTTx are faster connection speeds and lower operating costs compared to legacy copper based access networks.

FTTP access networks can now offer consumers 10 Gbps connections while the Coalition

Government’s preferred FTTN technology will struggle to provide consumers with more than 80 Mbps with the majority of consumers receiving about 50 Mbps.

With the cost of installing and operating FTTP set to become cheaper than FTTN and HFC after seven years it’s vital that the government not scrimp when it comes to providing consumers, business and industry with a globally competitive broadband access network. As things stand, the NBN Co will continue down its current path to provide Australia with a second rate broadband network. As the election battle heats up we need decisive action from the next government to ensure that Australia doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the broadband ledger.

Mark Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at RMIT University.

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