CommunicAsia 2010: What the FTTH?
SINGAPORE -- CommunicAsia 2010 -- When the CEO of an operator that's already offering a 100-Mbit/s fixed broadband service questions the need for such a level of personal bandwidth, then it's time to take a closer look at consumer demand for super-fast connections.
Never one to shy away from the real-world issues affecting service providers, Neil Montefiore, CEO of Singapore's StarHub and a veteran of the Southeast Asia communications industry, noted during a CEO panel here that "no one is quite sure what people will do with 100-Mbit/s symmetrical," asking: "Do people really need that speed?"
Montefiore was referring to the high-speed service that will be on offer to all of Singapore's residents over the island state's open National Broadband Network (NBN), which will offer 100 Mbit/s to every household over GPON connections within a few years. Those connections can be used by any retail service provider to offer its services in a move that, the Singapore authorities hope, will fuel service creation and the development of a true digital economy. (See Singapore Set for Broadband Ramp, Singapore Makes FTTH Strides , and Singapore Unveils Digital Hub Vision.)
The rollout and management of the NBN's active infrastructure -- the core IP and backhaul networks, central office OLTs, and the end-user ONTs -- is all being managed by an independent StarHub subsidiary called Nucleus Connect, which is set to launch its wholesale network services during the third quarter of this year. So Montefiore, as much as anyone in Singapore, is hoping the government-backed project will be a success. (See AsiaWatch: StarHub Lands NGN Role.)
But he noted that StarHub's own current 100-Mbit/s service, the MaxOnline Ultimate service that's available currently for S$86.88 (US$62.40) per month, has been taken up by only 5 percent of customers. "I'm unconvinced about consumer demand for 100 Mbit/s," he said. (See StarHub Adds 100-Mbit/s Tier .)
That, though, might change as the NBN services become available and introduce further competition into a fixed broadband market dominated by StarHub and national operator Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY). Montefiore noted that in other markets where very high-speed symmetrical services have been introduced, users have reacted by "doing a lot more uploading."
There's also the chance that the widespread availability of 100-Mbit/s broadband might fuel the development of new services. Fellow panelist, Telekom Malaysia Berhad CEO Dato' Zam Isa, certainly believes that the introduction of fiber access services in general leads to service innovation above and beyond the triple-play offers already on the market.
Telekom Malaysia launched its FTTH service in late March and is currently boosting its fiber rollout and provisioning teams to speed up service activation: The carrier currently has about 7,000 requests for its triple-play service offer, but only a small number of those have had their service switched on. (See Telekom Malaysia Shows Off IPTV.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading