Future of fibre

Regional operators and real estate developers are increasingly investing in FTTH networks in the region.

Tags: FTTHFibre optic cable
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Future of fibre Tauber says the UAE’s fibre sector is ahead of other ME countries.
By  Nithyasree Trivikram Published  November 29, 2010

Growing demand for sophisticated home automation coupled with the uptake of triple play services involving voice, data and video, requires faster bandwidth speeds. Only FTTH networks currently allow for such a high volume of data transfer.

Professor Hartwig Tauber, director general of FTTH Council Europe, says that fibre in the Middle East is developing at a steady pace, mainly in the cities of the Gulf countries. “The UAE ranks No. 1 in the Middle East in fibre optic deployments with about 250,000 customers connected through fibre to homes or buildings. While Saudi Arabia ranks second with 5,000 fibre deployments, Bahrain and Egypt follows respectively in the list of countries with fibre initiatives in this region,” he says.

The FTTH Council Europe, which is the first initiative of its kind, was founded in 2004 as an industrial organisation to promote the deployment of fibre network with a focus on Europe.

The council promotes this technology to deliver new services that will enhance quality of life, contribute to a better environment and increase economic competitiveness. “The council witnessed quite a rapid growth and has over 140 members now,” says Tauber.

Middle East focus

The ‘FTTH Council Europe Middle East Group’ was founded as an ad hoc working group of the FTTH Council Europe in February 2009, according to Tauber. The core objective of the group is to impart education on the economic and social benefits of major FTTH deployments that help in the growth of fibre infrastructure in the Middle East.

“Last year, some Middle East companies approached us and said that fibre is starting up in Middle East now, and it is good to have such an organisation in this region” Tauber says. “Hence, we started the Middle East working group, and it is still a part of FTTH Council Europe.

“Currently, we have more than 15 telecom vendors in the Middle East who are involved in the FTTH Middle East working group. We don’t have any operators in our list because we want to keep ourselves neutral. We have big companies like Cisco, Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson, as well as some smaller ones like Rawabi that are active in the council.”

Talks are on to make the FTTH Council in the Middle East an independent group, which is planned to be announced in Beirut, Lebanon, by the end of November. “The market in the Middle East is getting big in size, and it is appropriate to have an organisation at the regional level,” Tauber says.

Council approach

The FTTH Council carries out market research on how telecom operators need to invest in fibre networks. “We only look at FTTH and FTTB connectivity, and we don’t deal with other things such as FTTA (Fibre to the Amplifier) and FTTN (Fibre to the Node). It’s purely about fibre entering at least up to the basement of the building, and the way we do it is that we work with independent analysts who approach the operators themselves,” Tauber says.

“These analysts cross-check with the concerned regulators and operators in their respective countries to see that the research/survey numbers are accurate. However, it takes a lot of time to get these numbers in place,” adds Tauber.

According to the FTTH Council Europe, the Middle East market has significant growth potential, and as of December 2009, the penetration level of FTTH in the Middle East region was 68,822 FTTH/B subscribers and a total of 1,123,522 FTTH/B homes or buildings passed.

These figures account to 6.1% in terms of subscribers versus homes passed. “Considering the total population for the Middle East region is estimated to be over 212 million as of September 2009, the penetration level is relatively low,” Tauber went on to say.

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