Homes Connected Is
We are in the middle of a global scramble to build full fiber broadband networks. In the USA alone, 82 million homes are expected to be passed by 2027, double that of the 44 million homes passed currently, according to Cowen analysts. Europe follows a similar trend, with homes passed rates expected to rise to 309 million from 206 million in 2021. But having homes “passed” with fiber is different from having homes connected to an ultra-fast network. Lighting up networks and connecting customers will be just as big a challenge as getting fiber to hard-to-reach areas over the next few years. But if customers were able to connect themselves, things could speed up rapidly!
DIY to the Rescue
Fiber deployment is an expensive task with massive amounts of money being invested in building global networks.
Thankfully, investors have seen network builders as a good bet, pumping over £20bn into the UK’s independent broadband sector alone in the last few years. Governments like the United States have realized that private funding alone cannot get to the penetration levels required. With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and its $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, individual states are proactively creating plans to build high speed broadband networks to the unserved and underserved across the US.
Countries like Germany and the UK have also announced several government initiatives and policies to increase penetration rates and improve broadband connectivity to homes and businesses. Through the UK’s National Infrastructure Strategy, we have seen the government’s commitment to deliver gigabit-broadband nationwide by 2030. Germany has also presented the “digital awakening” plan, outlining the Digital Affairs and Transportation department’s strategy that will enable the country to go full fiber by 2030. What is more, the German national government recently announced the allocation of funding of up to €30 million per project to support rural FTTH projects.
Despite this, telecom providers still have trouble in converting “homes passed” to “homes connected”. Only 20 countries across the globe currently have more than a 50% “penetration” rate (subscribers divided by total number of households), with United Arab Emirates coming out on top with 97%. Nineteen (19) countries have less than a 10% rate, surprisingly including the UK (5.9%) and Germany (6.3%), as stated in the FTTH Council Global Ranking report.
While it’s great for countries to state how much of the nation has access to full fiber, how many choose to subscribe to this full fiber network? Operators blame this on the challenge of the “last mile”. This of course is the gap between a provider’s infrastructure and a customer’s home. This connection is normally the most expensive and time-consuming part of any fiber rollout. Hence why there still is a lack of emphasis on promoting “homes connected” because the numbers do not look as attractive.
Plug-and-Play Comes Home
With all the emphasis being placed on building networks, there are fewer resources available to take fiber from the street to the front door. To speed up the rate at which connections are being made, the industry continues to see a shift towards the use of plug-and-play fiber solutions.
As the name suggests, the installer at a home or business can simply plug the cable in at either end, dramatically reducing the time and skills required for the install. Plug-and-play benefits everyone involved in a fiber installation. Telecommunication providers can enjoy reduced costs as skilled staff are no longer required for each install, meaning labor time and wages are drastically lower. Network planners can benefit from the flexibility offered through these solutions, ensuring the network can be easily upgraded or expanded in the future if required. Installers and contractors will see increased productivity as installation takes less time and less skill, enabling homes to be connected easier and faster.
However, even with plug-and-play solutions, operations must still gain access to each home to complete the rollout. With new revolutionary solutions being developed, the installation process can now be split into two phases:
- Phase one is installing the “homes passed” infrastructure by pre-installing a Splice Closure (SC) box underground on the border of the private property carried out by the provider.
- Phase two is the final fiber connection within the property, carried out by a tradesman or the homeowner themself.
This gives subscribers greater convenience and choice as to when the home will be connected, while maximizing the operator’s network rollout output. It enables more homes connected, in reduced time and at a lower cost. A plug-and-play functionality makes for quick and simple installation, reducing the time and effort required to coordinate FTTH installations at multiple properties. Fiber on the ground level can now be installed at one time, reducing the need for skilled labor because subscribers can do the last few meters themselves.
Not only do consumers receive the highest quality connection offered through fiber optic cabling, but also enables the end user to connect it with minimal interruption, at a time convenient for them.
Using such self-install plug-and-play solutions reduces the hurdles faced in the last mile of traditional FTTH connections, and aids in converting homes passed into homes connected. This requirement is removed with a DIY-style installation as subscribers can part-install their own fiber, with a simple manual. All of which contribute to operators’ rollout business as they can deliver more homes connected in less time and at a lower cost, improving total cost of ownership. This will aid those countries in progressing towards the high FTTH targets they have set.
Self-Install as the Holy Grail?
One such option is a plug-and-play solution created by HUBER+SUHNER. DIY techniques such as this are enabling operators to connect more homes quicker than ever before. While questions remain as to whether certain countries can achieve their forecasted FTTH penetration rate targets, utilizing DIY-customer-connectivity can help improve their chances of success, enabling network operators to effectively plan, manage, and simplify the rollout process.