Small Telecom Providers Lead Growth Of All-Fiber Networks

November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11

The number of North American households connected directly into fiber networks has hit the nine million mark, with small incumbent telephone companies continuing to lead the growth in fiber to the home deployments, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council Americas.

At the FTTH industry's annual conference in Dallas, the Council announced that FTTH services are now available to 21.3 million North American homes, an increase of more than 10 percent over the past six months.

"While large providers such as Verizon in the U.S., Bell and Bell Aliant in Canada and Telmex in Mexico continue to be very important, small providers such as rural telcos, real estate developers, small competitive providers and even rural electric coops are playing a key role in driving the expansion of fiber to the home," said Michael Render, president of RVA LLC, which tracks FTTH deployment for the Council.

In its analysis, RVA found that all but eight of nearly 880 FTTH service providers surveyed have fewer than 30,000 subscribers, with only five having more than 50,000 access lines and 97 percent of them having fewer than 10,000. The most notable of the big FTTH providers is Verizon, which serves more than half of the FTTH households in North America.

"In addition, other large providers are growing in importance. AT&T is increasing its deployment of FTTH in new developments, and the new Google Gigabit fiber deployment in Kansas City is now fully underway," said Render.

RVA found that there are now more than a half million households on the continent receiving Internet connectivity at or in excess of 100 megabits per second (mbps), and that tested throughput speeds among survey respondents found FTTH subscribers beginning to pull away from other access technologies in both download and upload capacity. Median tested download speeds were above 20 mbps for FTTH subscribers, compared to less than 15 mbps for cable modem users, while FTTH upload speeds were over 9 mbps compared to about 3 mbps for cable.

"What we're finding in our surveys is that the advantages of having an all-fiber infrastructure are now starting to be experienced by subscribers in very real ways," said Heather Burnett Gold, president of the FTTH Council Americas.

Also discussed at the FTTH Conference were the results of the first comprehensive study on emerging FTTH deployment in Latin America, which found that all-fiber networks now pass 4.2 million homes in the region, with 350,000 homes connected.