Switzerland's national operator Swisscom is now delivering "ultra-fast" broadband services of 100 Mbit/s or faster to more than 1 million customers, with about 80% of those customers hooked up directly to a fiber connection, it announced today.
And that's no mean feat in a country with a population of just over 8 million and about 3 million households.
Swisscom has about 1.85 million retail fixed broadband customers in total, so more than half of that customer base is receiving the operator's 'ultra-fast' broadband service. The milestone is the result of years of investment (sometimes with municipal or utility company partners) in fiber deployments and the latest copper broadband enhancement technologies, which means Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) has an array of different broadband access 'flavors.' The operator first announced its fiber broadband plans and investments back in 2008: see Swisscom Plans $2.3B FTTx Rollout.
Here's a breakdown of Swisscom's ultra-fast broadband progress:
Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH): More than 800,000 homes and businesses in 80 Swiss towns and cities are hooked up to a fiber connection and can access services with downstream speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s. (See Swisscom Launches 1G Broadband.)
Fiber-to-the-street (FTTS) and fiber-to-the-building (FTTB): For FTTS, which is being deployed mainly outside major urban areas, the fiber is run to within 200 meters of homes and businesses, with an existing copper tail used for the physical connection to the customer, over which broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s are possible. For FTTB, the fiber is run to the basement of a building, from where existing copper wiring is used to connect the building's tenants. Working with Huawei, Swisscom has deployed FTTS in 10 municipalities, and is rolling it out in another 100 locations. The operator is keen to boost the potential speeds for its FTTS and FTTB customers in the future, and is working with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , its main FTTS technology partner, on the potential for G.fast, the emerging standard being ratified by the ITU that could deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s over a short copper connection. (See Swisscom Picks Huawei for Fiber Expansion.)
Fiber-to-the-curb with vectoring: Swisscom has been upgrading its FTTC access infrastructure (which relies on VDSL-enabled copper tails running hundreds of meters from a cabinet to the customer) with vectoring technology, which cancels noise in the copper connections and so enables a cleaner, faster connection. The Swiss incumbent says the fixed broadband connections to more than 200,000 homes and businesses have now been upgraded with vectoring capabilities, doubling downstream speeds and enabling connections of up to 100 Mbit/s.
Swisscom's aim is to offer its ultra-fast broadband services to more than 2.3 million homes and businesses by the end of 2015, and more than 4.6 million by 2020.
The driving forces behind its investments are competition and service support: The company knows it needs the best fixed and mobile broadband services to be able to deliver high quality consumer services such as IPTV (it has more than 1 million customers for its service) and business services, especially as cloud-based services become more popular. (See Swisscom Embraces OpenStack With PlumGrid.)
Switzerland is one of a growing number of European countries that, after years of talk, FTTH has been widely deployed. But the continents is still divided: Some major European operators, while boasting in their marketing about "fiber broadband," are mainly focused on running fiber to various distribution points (curb, cabinet, and so on) and relying on the existing copper plant for the final connection, so avoiding the high up-front costs of taking fiber all the way to homes and businesses. (See No Easy Answers on FTTH Investment.)
Medium-term commitment Swisscom decided in 2008 that it was going to invest significantly in its fixed and mobile broadband capabilities, and where it has deployed fiber to the customer it has built in plenty of redundauncy (multiple fibers) - that's partly to do with regulatory reasons but it means that the broadband infrastructure is future-proofed in terms of capacity.
I think these years of investment will pay off for Swisscom because it will already have the infrastructure capable of delivering all sorts of bandwidth-hungry services, and be able to focus on developing, delivering and monetising those services rather than constantly having to upgrade its broadband infrastructure.
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