Point-to-point fibre installation cost viable: Study

Point-to-point fibre rollouts would only cost 10 per cent more than the PON technology used under the NBN, according to a study presented to the ACCC

A study into the roll out of next generation access networks has found a point-to-point fibre deployment would cost only 10 per cent more than the passive optical network (PON) technology currently being used to roll out the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The study, presented by Dr Karl-Heinz Neumann to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Regulatory Forum held in Queensland a fortnight ago, compared cost modellings by Neumann’s German consulting company, WIK, of rolling out different fibre infrastructures to six European countries.

Neumann’s study contrasted the cost of passing and subsequently connecting fibre to homes based on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), point-to-point or PON-based fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technologies in Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Spain, all of which have already seen significant investment in fibre technologies.

The study found that “the more future-proof and open access friendly P2P (point-to-point) FTTH architecture requires less than 10 per cent additional investment than the PON architecture”.

Neumann’s company also found that FTTH rollouts could cost up to five times more than FTTN equivalents in those countries studied.

A point-to-point network, as often deployed to business and key buildings, sees multiple fibres split from a backhaul trunk, with each premise receiving its own dedicated fibre. In contrast, PON networks use point-to-multipoint technology to connect to premises by delivering data over multiple wavelengths of light through a single optical fibre.

NBN wholesaler, NBN Co, has signed contracts with Alcatel-Lucent to rollout the company’s GPON technology, which would see a single optical fibre serve 32 premises through multiple light waves. A spokesperson for the company told Computerworld Australia that the GPON technology would initially use a single colour of light to deliver 2.4 gigabits per second (Gbps) of bandwidth during the NBN rollout, but that it could foreseeably add different waves of light to meet additional capacity in the future.

Some have criticised GPON technology for its asymmetric nature; the Alcatel-Lucent equipment rolled out as part of the NBN, for example, currently has a maximum upstream bandwidth of 1.2Gbps, or half the downstream speed, over one colour. While it is possible to have a symmetric service in an under-utilised area, the upstream speed is likely to become slower as more users on the same splitter adopt the service.

Neumann’s study also found that, while telecommunications incumbents in their respective countries were best placed to roll out any next generation access network, there was often little incentive to do so until it faced competition from alternative carriers on other networks.

Neumann called the Government’s NBN radical in comparison to FTTH rollouts globally.

“By taking over the role of the investor, financier and network operator for the fibre network infrastructure, the Australian State goes back to the organizational [sic] model of the industry which prevailed in many countries until one or two decades [ago].

According to Neumann, the Australian model - which is now being followed at a municipal level in several European countries - meant the Government took the risk of getting no economic compensation for the NBN, but agreed with Labor party sentiment that the network would not be rolled out to the same extent under private equity arrangements.

“If other economies which realise only a slower and later NGA roll-out and would face a bandwidth bottleneck, the Australian economy may even get an advantage by avoiding such bottlenecks, by not loosing [sic] productivity (gains) and by improving its international competitiveness compared to other countries,” he said.

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Tags NBNfibreGigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON)

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