The Future Of Connectivity

KK Shetty
Business World
July 22, 2014
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A study by the Discovery Institute estimates that new technologies will drive online traffic up by 50 times its current rate in the next 10 years. This is a prime reason telecom service providers are opting for FTTH networks over copper as a potential solution for better connectivity. 

One of the biggest problems in using copper in communication is “noise”. Copper pairs get noisy over distance, apart from getting too much effect of interference from nearby environment. In order to carry more bandwidth, one needs to use really high frequencies, and high frequencies are affected by noise even more. Imagine noise as road block interrupting traffic, and high frequency as car running at high speed!

The answer to this problem is Fiber To The Home (FTTH).  FTTH is a concept based on fiber-optic cables and associated optical electronics that will allow high-speed broadband access. This type of network transforms voice, data and entertainment experiences in the living room by providing incredibly high internet speeds, enabling downloads of audio and video on demand, IPTV, high definition TV, interactive TV, personal video recorder and virtual classrooms. 

In the case of fiber, communication is done using light which travels in whole through the fiber via a simple physics rule called total internal reflection. The principle is quite simple, but it makes communication effective as fiber is not prone to interference by any external element like other wires, apart from that loss of signal per Km is considerably less in fiber as compared to copper. This makes fiber a very good “Physical” medium for carrying high bandwidth.

On the deployment side, operators are still facing several challenges. Investment supplies in optical fiber deployment are on the higher side and can be implemented only if there are that many takers for the high bandwidth applications. Indigenous equipment is used only by very few vendors in the Indian market and therefore, imports account for a considerable part of the overall costs. Another major challenge would be the inadequate availability of skilled manpower. Apart from this, the hurdles of multiple approval requirements for laying fiber are a major challenge in the current scenario. The Government’s intervention in these issues can help a lot in addressing these challenges. These factors have slowed down the rolling out of FTTH in India.

In the present circumstances and going by the industry trends we can state that FTTH is a reality.As we all know, the usage of Internet has transformed over the years and a lotof larger files are moving across the cyberspace network these days. Industry experts say that this trend is going to amplify in the years to come.

India’s average internet connection speed is 1.3 mbps, the lowest among Asian countries and according to IAMAI, only 2.4 per cent of internet users experience speeds of 4 mbps and about 0.3 per cent above 10 mbps. This is dismal when compared to average speeds in China (8.3 mbps) and Korea (14.2 mbps). Clearly these speeds and bandwidth won’t allow internet-based services such as file and photo sharing, music download, movie downloads, multi-player online gaming, virtual networking, interactive distance learning, telemedicine and several other applications, which have become integral to our lives. Fiber and FTTX have emerged to accommodate the growing data traffic, new value-added services and multimedia products on the internet. FTTH opens up unlimited opportunities for telecom companies, network operators and urban developers. 

In fact, this period is an era of “fiber-to-the-everything”, where fiber connectivity is indispensable and important to support services on new age smart phones, smart homes and offices. There is a convergence of various devices and media to provide a flawless experience to customers and this has resulted in the any stream to any screen trend. In the long run, everything will be IP based; Voice, Data, Video and even wireless, completing the “IP Quadruple Play”, but the impact on existing and future networks is going to push the need for more bandwidth and speed. This clearly is a driving force behind FTTH deployments in our country.

Opportunities in India
With India’s huge population and its insatiable hunger for communication, the telecommunication sector is frantically upgrading its networks by rolling out 3G, 4G NGN and FTTH. In the conventional telecommunication network, copper cables are used to carry electrical signals, but new age optical fiber cables carry data at more than 40Gbps, which is equivalent to nearly a million voice calls running simultaneously.

Market statistics indicate that will be a considerable amount of FTTX subscribers in the next few years. This indicates that both incumbent and competitive carriers will require the same focus on wireline broadband as they have had on wireless coverage.Also, it will be imperative to drive FTTH growth along with other technologies to achieve the broadband targets set by the Government under the National Telecom Policy. 

Approximately 20 years ago, no one would have predicted the impact of growth in wireless in the Indian market. We are probably at the same cross road when it comes to FTTH. However, like any other infrastructure developments, FTTX is as much to do with planning as it is to do with execution, especially in a market like India, where touch points for FTTX will cut across service providers, OEM vendors, corporations and real estate developers. 

The telecom sector has seen remarkable growth in India’s rural and urban areas. The main drivers for this trend being, ‘affordable’ pricing plans for the 18 to 40 years age group as well as for the sizeable market of middle-class Indians — a critical mass for telecom services. India is one of the low-cost markets which hassuccessfully broken the myth that ‘high-end technology products or services can’t be made available at an affordable price to the masses’. With its sheer volume, customer base and opportunity, India has managed to bring down costs dramatically. 

Additionally, as many technologies have niche benefits for users, FTTH also will find its own niche market in India. Very soon as the cost of services falls, users will be able to afford triple play services delivered through FTTH service with greater ease.

Industry experts say that the Indian FTTH market will be more successful when compared to global counterparts owing to the large population in the country. Even real estate builders and developers are making a conscious effort to now lay fiber instead of copper for providing cable TV and telephone connections to each apartment. A tremendous growth in data uptake has thus made the implementation of FTTH vital. However, it’s equally important to address the challenges facing the FTTH segment to strengthen the business scenario of this revolutionary technology in our countrygoing forward.