I've been quite silent here over the last months, although I've been quite active on the FTTH front: training an installation & maintenance contractor, visiting key vendors, working on Muni Broadband projects, attending seminars and conferences.
Living "Fiber Broadband" since two years, especially with the lovely Pau Broadband Country, I'm now convinced of a few things. Here are my points:
- Installing fiber at the FTTH subscriber' s place is not a B2B job. It's B2C. We are the Consumer. You don't behave the same way when dealing with me aka the person than when dealing with me aka the enterprise. This is where everybody fails, from the Telco to the Contractor: the traditional "telecoms" technicians are not suited for installing fiber in our houses.They may have all the required technical skills, but they lack the social ones: customer relationships. Here in France, some big players recently realized the issue, due to the countless problems they have to face once entering the Subscriber's place. My take: in two years from now, the guy (or the girl) who will install FTTH in my house won't come from the Telecoms world: she will come from the Retail world.
- The future of FTTH relies into Muni Networks. Telcos and CableTV operators have only one objective: make their company's stocks shine on the market. Therefore, no private Communications Services Provider will deliver non-TriplePlay services on their own networks, at least not until some new player comes with a disruptive business model à la Apple' s App Store. Just because they can't make money selling the peer-to-peer/local/kiosk services that are the true juice of Fiber-To-The-Home. Even e-Health and e-Education are not really in their true scope: ever seen a Telco providing Maths courses ? Here again, Apple could serve as the disruptive model with its iTunes U. IMHO, Telcos are set to stick with their TriplePlay stuff for a long while. In France for instance, when speaking FTTH in public, both rivals FT-Orange and SFR describe Fiber-To-The-Home as "the technology to get HD-TV and soon 3D-TV", and that pretty much it. At a recent conference in Paris, Swisscom even said that FTTH is no different from older technologies, relying on a 20 to 30 years ROI business model. I sincerely wish Apple to look after Broadband, in order to demonstrate to all those old-thinkers how they are wrong, keeping their old-fashioned way of building and operating access networks...Let's face it: only Open Neutral Access network infrastructures allow the so-called Next Generation Applications or Services, such as Tele-Medicine. Applications which must be operated by some Service(s) Provider(s) who are of a totally different type than the Telco and the CableTV guys. One must split the services from the infrastructure, to enable competition and service delivery. Allowing anyone to provide any service to anyone on the network is the key for innovation, hence jobs creation. Ever heard of a private telco with such an open mind ? Hence this fact: a) as existing Telecoms and CableTV operators will only deploy FTTH in dense urban areas, b) as Collectivities, e.g. City Councils, in the rest of the country, e.g. rural areas, will have to go Fiber Broadband in order to avoid the Digital Divide and keep their employment rate up, c) as those Collectivities will build public infrastructures which are open and neutral by nature, FTTH Muni networks will serve as the platform for innovation, new businesses and new jobs creations - like the Pau Greater Area do with its Pau Broadband Country network, by the way: more than 600 new jobs since 2005, for a 140,000 inhabitants area, with 50,000 households passed and 10,000 active subscribers to date, for a total investment by each and every citizen of 143.00 EUR over 15 years (or less than 10 euros per year over 15 years...).
- There is not one business model for FTTH but two: Pau, and Twitter. Regarding Pau, see above: 10 euros per habitant per year over 15 years, to build and operate a FTTH/FTTB network with the highest penetration ratio in Europe to date, and hosting some of the most advanced high-tech research centers in the World.Now, think Twitter. A disruptive Web 2.0 service, launched 3 years ago without any business model, today the fastest growing communication tool on Earth. Still no proven, established business model, yet millions of users, daily. Hence this: get Munis and Collectivities to build open neutral 100 Mbps symmetrical access networks, and let the people create the killer app.Forget ARPU, CAPEX, OPEX. Go PEOPLE.