FTTH Is Not the Only Way to Future Proof a Network, Anymore

The 5G era might be the first to dethrone thinking about the “best” or “only” way to build future-proof fixed access networks. For many decades, the thinking has been that only optical fiber to the premises could do so.

In a strict sense, that thinking has changed over the last decade, as rival hybrid fiber coax networks deployed by cable operators have shown that gigabit networks can be built, affordably and now, using HFC.

But bigger changes are coming. In the 5G era, mobile access might become a full substitute for fixed access, at least for many customers. And 5G-based fixed access will be a full substitute for other forms of fixed network access, especially optical fiber to the premises.

It is next to impossible to argue that fiber-to-home deployments are more affordable than fixed wireless, especially fixed wireless using unlicensed spectrum. Where the fiber to home distribution network might cost $600 per passing, a fixed wireless approach using unlicensed millimeter wave spectrum might cost as little as $300 per passing.

A connected fixed wireless location might cost $800, where a connected fiber to premises connection might cost $1,800, according to Maravedis.

Broadly speaking, it has made sense--for cable TV or telco networks--to deploy fiber as deep into the network as the business model will support. “Fiber to where you make money” is one colloquial way of describing the strategy.
“The strategy of deploying fiber to the most economical point in the network is still valid, but the combination of fixed fiber, wireless and other access technologies is now even more crucial to the operator’s business case,” said Federico GuillĂ©n, Nokia’s president of Fixed Networks.
We will also see a combination of fiber and fixed wireless access to deliver ultra-broadband to the home, he argued.

In other words, the strategy now is how to create gigabit access networks that are profitable, not the choice of access media.


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