FTTH Quietly Grows 10% in North America

Sure, the big FiOS push is done, but North American FTTH growth is being nourished by other sources, including AT&T

September 25, 2012

2 Min Read
FTTH Quietly Grows 10% in North America

DALLAS -- IP Possibilities -- The North American market for fiber-connected homes has grown 10 percent in the past six months, a little-heralded increase mostly led by smaller telcos, the FTTH Council reported here Monday.

The number of North American homes connected directly to fiber hit the 9 million mark, said Michael Render of RVA Consulting in his annual research report to this conference. Render believes the continued growth of the North American market for fiber is being generally underestimated since the dramatic days of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS push have come to an end, and he attributes that to several factors.

"People are not seeing the growth in connected homes in Mexico and Canada," Render says. Those countries, respectively, have 250,000 and 400,000 FTTH lines connected.

Some observers also don't consider continued fiber take-up in the FiOS footprint that involves TV-only or voice-only customers for Verizon, as well as what he calls "stealth FTTH" deployment by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and others. AT&T is using fiber for greenfield buildouts but is not trumpeting those deployments as FTTH because it isn't marketing new higher-speed services on those fiber networks, according to Render.

Finally, Render says, 855 of the other 1,000 providers of FTTH are small companies with less than 10,000 subscribers, and their deployments are flying under the radar.

Of course, FTTH connections remain less than 10 percent of total broadband connections in the U.S., led by cable modems at almost 50 percent and DSL connections at just above 30 percent but declining.

U.S. FTTH subscribers receive an average tested download speed of 22Mbit/s, according to RVA. Render sees a still small but significant audience of very high-speed consumers, including 516,500 households with 100Mbits/s downstream service and 803,461 households with 50Mbit/s service.

The average take rate for FTTH deployment stands at 42 percent, with real estate developers having a much higher take rate than others.

FTTH is still not a slam dunk with consumers, Render admits, as those companies with the higher take rates had stronger marketing campaigns, a strong local presence, good service features and, oh yeah, weaker competitors.

RVA is seeing some market impact of the recent moves in Washington to reduce funding via the conversion of USF funding to Connect America, a move that has slashed reimbursements for some rural telco buildouts, Render admits. Those companies that had started deployments are continuing, for the most part, he maintains, but others that had not yet begun deployment are hesitating, as they are now uncertain of their business models going forward.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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