VDSL2 – G.Fast – FTTdp: Copper gets turbocharged

Head of Research, Telecoms Business Unit, IDATE

Telcos have ambitious Vectoring rollout plans, with some aiming to have between 25% and 30% of VDSL2 lines covered by 2017.

Vectoring and bonding are starting to be deployed in certain countries, even if the technical and regulatory constraints would seem to point to only small-scale rollouts. G.Fast is the next generation standard being examined today. The report we released provides readers with an update on the latest technological developments in VDSL2.

VDSL2 & Co: ever more promising technological developments

VDSL2 has begun to be implemented, and several telcos have based their ultra-fast broadband strategies squarely on copper infrastructure right up to the customer premises. If VDSL can deliver theoretical speeds of around 50 Mbps near the exchange or cabinet, Vectoring, which consists of reducing noise among the lines, makes it possible to double that speed to 100 Mbps. Bonding, meanwhile, consists of using several copper pairs, either to double speeds for users in the vicinity of the exchange, or double the distance at which a 50 Mbps connection is available. In both cases, however, performances are very quickly affected by the subscriber’s distance from the exchange or cabinet.
G.Fast, which is the future standard currently under examination, and due to be approved in
2014, offers a theoretical speed of 1 Gbps, but noise cancellation capabilities are even stronger.

Growth of VDSL subscribers worldwide between December 2010 and June 2013 (million)

Growth of VDSL subscribers worldwide between December 2010 and June 2013 (million)

Source: IDATE

Still only small-scale implementation of VDSL2 and its successors

In mid-2013, customers subscribing to a VDSL2 ultra-fast broadband service represented 19% of the world’s FTTH/B subscribers. The vast majority of deployments have been performed by AT&T in the United States, which is reporting 26 million VDSL2-ready households and more than 9 million subscribers. AT&T continues to bank on these solutions, and is now offering pair bonding to eligible customers.
Western Europe is the second biggest VDSL market, accounting for 35% of the world’s subscribers as of mid-2013.

Will this drive a shift in the ultra-fast broadband market?

VDSL2 and its successors have a clear set of advantages, starting with savings on rollouts. Telcos would not need to deploy optical fiber from end to end, and can use the existing last mile of their networks. They would also save on customer premises installations, which cost them a great deal of time and money.
The performances offered by these new solutions appear to be coming more and more in line with those delivered by FTTH (at least in its current iteration), but only under optimal conditions. So this is not a solution that can be made available to everyone. Plus, VDSL Vectoring does not enable physical sub-loop unbundling, in which case bitstream remains the only option for sharing access to the network – something that not all market players want, as is the case in France, for instance.

As a result, even if the development prospects for the VDSL market remain optimistic for the coming years, we do not expect it to cause a major upheaval in the ultra-fast broadband hierarchy, with FTTH/B continuing to be the architecture of choice.


Next Gen Access deployment

Roland Montagne

Roland Montagne

Head of the Telecoms Business Unit at IDATE


Measuring costs for each EU-27 member state to reach the Digital Agenda in Europe

In May 2010, the European Commission adopted its Digital Agenda policy programme. It was one of the first flagship initiatives of the EU 2020 strategy. It sets ambitious targets to provide all European households with ubiquitous coverage of 30 Mbps as a minimum and half of them with a subscription of 100 Mbps by 2020. IDATE has published recently a report providing different possible cost scenarios – with a breakdown by technology and by population density (urban, peri-urban, rural).

Today, some voices are raising concerns that the goals of the Digital Agenda (DA) will not be reached in many Member States as the necessary expenditure is beyond reach, especially in the current European economic situation. This is why this report focuses in particular on the cost of the Digital Agenda in reaching the ambitious goal of coverage of 30 Mbps and 100 Mbps, and further tries to clarify, per country, what it will be. It puts forward a theoretical model with the distinction of various scenarios involving distinct technologies, namely fixed and wireless.

"In several European countries, the rollout of FTTH networks has started and the European Union disposes already of a 40% NGA net coverage amongst all its member states. Indeed, copper local loop will ultimately be replaced by fibre, it being the medium that can guarantee an almost infinite bandwidth capacity for the future. Nevertheless, good quality copper, especially in Western Europe, and the current economic situation, could lead some telcos to consider other alternative scenarios involving VDSL, LTE or even satellite in Ka band", says Roland Montagne, Director of the Telecom Business Unit at IDATE. He adds: "The adoption of a FTTH-oriented scenario by telcos will not only depend on the amount of capex necessary but also on a viable business model. On this, telcos should be innovative not only with the services they propose but also on their pricing approach (tiered pricing) and their strategy regarding smart access."

Deployment costs by scenario

  • Four scenarios in different constellations have been modelled, including a full FTTH/B coverage scenario. Depending on the mix of technologies deployed, these scenarios will cost between 51 billion EUR and 229 billion EUR.
  • These amounts, whilst certainly substantial, are within the expected range and therefore come as a confirmation of the ambitious nature of the broadband objectives of the DAE.

*50% uptake
NOTE: Scenario names are chosen to reflect main technological characteristics, but do not express a preference for any given
technology to reach the broadband objectives of the Digital Agenda.
90% FTTH/B = 90% FTTH/B only + 10% LTE
Vectoring = FTTH/B+FTTLA+VDSL Vectoring+VDSL2+LTE)
Wireless = LTE+FTTH/B

NGA Costs model

In order to build our theoretical model of the costs of reaching the DA goals, IDATE started by drawing up several assumptions about ‘overlapping’ in each country with the aim of establishing the ‘net’ number of FTTx homes passed, and thus the effective level of NGA coverage. Consolidating this in the EU27 gives a net NGA coverage rate of 41% of European households in late-2011. Among the four fixed NGA architectures considered (FTTH/B, FTTLA+DOCSIS 3.0, FTTN+VDSL and FTTx/LAN), regarding our estimates at that time, FTTH/B accounted for 22%, FTTN+VDSL for 25% and FTTLA+DOCSIS3.0 for 50% of the European NGA coverage.

Using these coverage estimates as a baseline, IDATE modelled the investment required for each of the 27 Member States to reach the broadband objectives of the Commission's DA. We also took into account, nevertheless, for each Member State, the national broadband or ultra-fast broadband plans already launched, with their associated objectives of coverage up to 2020.

We then considered no duplication of infrastructure in our cost model. Indeed, the model's output shows the minimum cost of reaching the DA targets by rolling out one single network per coverage area1.

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