Fibre networks council tells Ireland to up its game
Ireland is struggling to keep up with leading European nations in terms of connecting fibre networks to the home.
According to director general of the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council of Europe, Prof Hartwig Tauber, with only 10,000 homes or buildings connected to “real” fibre networks Ireland is “one of the countries with a very slow fibre adoption in Europe”.
The latest Market Panorama report from the council – which is made up of 150 companies across the continent – shows Russia making a dramatic 42 per cent increase in the number of FTTH subscribers over the past year, while Lithuania led the way in terms of fibre adoption overall with 31 per cent of its homes benefitting from the superior broadband speed FTTH offers.
The report coincided with the FTTH Conference 2013 at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, where delegates heard strong criticism of the EU’s decision to cut spending on telecommunications from €9.2 billion to just over €1 billion in the next seven years.
The council believes this drop leaves “no room” to help support fibre infrastructure investments and showed a “lack of understanding of European governments on the importance of future-proof broadband networks”.
Frustration with Ireland
Prof Tauber told The Irish Times there’s a frustration that in Ireland “the alternative operators, in particular Magnet Networks and DigiWeb, only slowly extend their networks”, while there is a lack of focus on adopting “future-proof” fibre broadband solutions which can provide “economic, productivity, innovation and social inclusion” benefits.
Magnet Networks CEO, Mark Kellett, said mass market adoption of FTTH in Ireland has “failed for a number of reasons” thus far, but primarily “it’s down to a lack of clear Government strategy underpinned by weak regulation, making Ireland less attractive for investment into the FTTH sector”.
“The average consumer in Ireland is slower to adopt fibre technologies than other Europeans,” said Mr Kellett. “The appetite just isn’t there and the Government is doing very little to change that.”
Prof Tauber, however, said the “appetite is definitely there” on the consumer end, as seen when looking at sales figures in several countries where fibre providers have been operating for two years or more.
Referring to UPC’s DOCSIS 3.0 system using copper connections he said: “While those connections are very limited due to the nature of copper, the end users get the impression some kind of fibre connection,” he said.
Increases in bandwidth
Anthony Whelan, head of cabinet for European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, said while DOCSIS 3.0 may not meet the “gold standard” the FTTH council wants – “which is fibre all the way to the premises of the customer” – it does provide significant quality of broadband.
“It gives you very cost-effective significant increases in bandwidth,” said Mr Whelan, adding that “in terms of cable upgrade Ireland is actually doing rather well”.
He also said Eircom’s development of “so-called fibre” networks, can still have a significant impact for customers.
He was referring to fibre to the cabinet (FTTC). While the FTTH involves replacing older generation copper cables with fibre optic ones to increase broadband speed, FTTC uses fibre to connect with the nearest telecom street cabinet, then existing copper cables from there to the end user.
Ireland’s largest “fibre” network roll-out has seen Eircom deliver FTTC services to “230,000 premises and we aim to have 700,000 premises ... by December 2013”.
The company is also hosting two FTTH pilot schemes in Sandyford and Wexford, and says that in reality FTTC is “still a real fibre -based product as the distance between the cabinet and the home is such a short distance you can reach up to 70Mb speed”.