Network operators in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea have connected close to 100% of their domestic residents with fiber and are starting to offer 1G and even 10G speeds. For a selected few customers, docking their yachts in Hong Kong’s harbors, 1 Gbps fiber to the yacht (FTTy) connections are now available. However today, 1G connectivity in itself is not a luxury. According to Amano-san of NTT, 1 Gbps connectivity today costs customers in Japan less than 10Mbps service did back in 2001. That is a factor of 100 improvement in speed and cost per Gbps over the last 15 years!
China leads the world in the total number of FTTx subscribers, which is expected to exceed 100 million by the end of 2015. The Chinese government’s latest plan calls for doubling the connectivity speed by the end of 2015, while reducing the end user’s cost by 40%. India and Indonesia are just starting to deploy FTTx, as their governments have approved very ambitious plans to bring fiber connectivity to even the smallest and most remote villages. “FTTz” as mentioned in the title, is not a real term, but it symbolizes extending fiber to every last resident of the region.
Close to 2 billion people live in poverty across the Asia-Pacific. For example, central Jakarta is still served by an open sewage system today, with only a few fancy hotels providing a “21st century shelter” for western tourists. Yet the government of Indonesia have allocated close to 5% of their annual budget (a few quadrillion Rupies, or about $3 billion USD) to connect 20 million residents with fiber by 2019. Their plan is to connect people to the global network of knowledge and opportunity first and fix the sewage later.
A few more numbers on Indonesia: the population exceeds 250 million, the number of mobile phones (or SIM cards) is 315 million, the number of internet users 75 million and the number of Facebook accounts is also 75 million. 4 million customers are paying now for streaming TV services and these will be the first ones to use FTTx connectivity. Telecomunikasi Indonesia passed 7 million homes with FTTH connectivity by the end of 2014 and plans to sign up 3 million customers by the end of this year.
India, energized by the newly elected president of the world’s largest democracy, is waking up from slumber. The new National Fiber Optic Network will connect 6.5 million villages in India by the end of 2016, extending fiber connectivity enabled Wi-Fi services to almost 1 billion people living in rural areas. Fiber is now considered a basic utility in all high rise buildings as part of Inidia’s “100 smart cities” program.
Apart from China, not many countries in the Asia-Pacific have a proven record of bringing these ambitious plans to reality within a very short period of time. A speaker from BBNL, India’s leading network operator, acknowledged that current fiber deployment rates in India have to be increased 10 fold to meet the government’s target by the end of 2016.
Among many challenges cited by speakers the main one is lack of qualified engineering personnel in the region. Training installation technicians has to be the first step in any of these ambitious programs so this is yet another way to offer opportunities to the region’s poor through job creation! Telekomunikasi Indonesia hired 4,000 sales people in 2015 to promote FTTx services. A clear majority of the potential customers have never even heard of FTTx yet.
Compared FTTx implementation’s challenges to “changing the tire while the car is running”, as outdated core networks often fail to support their new access infrastructure. No matter what the challenges are, by the order of “His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei” it is time for “e-Brunei”. Sounds like magic, but it is up to Edwin Lin and his colleagues to get 45,000 Brunei residents connected with fiber by the end of 2017. They are actually more than 50% of the way there with 27,000 connected customers connected now. These numbers are modest, but they all add up.
FTTx deployment across the Asia Pacific is clearly a race, as countries compete with each other in bringing more opportunities to their residents and stimulating their economies. For small island nations like Fiji, the advantage of FTTx is clear and simple: more connectivity for the tourists brings more tourists. Each tourist becomes a Fiji advertiser by posting photos and videos from their vacations online.
For larger countries, tourism is just a small part of the much bigger picture, but many of them see FTTx as the way forward. China is considered as a great example, but how many countries will be able to follow it? If even half of the countries in the Asia-Pacific match China’s scale of FTTx deployments, the demand for optics will be strong in 2016-2020. Not to mention that those leaders in FTTx deployments, such as Japan and Korea, are already looking at the next generation of optical connectivity now.