BBWF 2010: DT Pushes Out FTTH Timeline

PARIS -- Broadband World Forum 2010 -- Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) will start its FTTH rollout in 2011 as part of its plan to reach the whole of Germany with broadband using fixed and wireless technologies, but it seems the carrier's fiber access timetable has already slipped back a few years.

Earlier this year, the German incumbent, which already has 11.8 million retail DSL broadband customers (including 971,000 that take IPTV as part of their package), said it planned to reach 4 million households, about 10 percent of all German homes, with FTTH/B (fiber to the home or building) by 2012. (See DT Revamp Puts FTTH in Focus.)

Now, though, the plan is to reach 10 percent of households with fiber within the next five years to supplement the existing widespread DSL coverage, noted CTO Olivier Baujard during a keynote speech here. (See DT Seeks VDSL Price Approval.)

It's the operator's mobile networks that look set to blanket a lot of hard-to-reach areas with a broadband connection. Baujard said DT continues to upgrade its 3G networks to HSPA+, and will also use its Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollout to "take broadband to the white spots" where fixed-line broadband isn't possible. About 4 percent of German households (approximately 1.6 million households) are in these "white spots." (See DT Takes First Orders for LTE Service , German Operators Get Busy With LTE , and MWC 2010: Olivier Baujard, CTO, Deutsche Telekom.)

The CTO said that satellite might even be used to ensure coverage, and "keep the promise" of national broadband availability, while wireless LAN would also be installed on trains and planes so that "if you are a Deutsche Telekom customer you can get a broadband connection anywhere in Germany. This is not just a vision -- this is the plan."

All of this will cost a lot of money, of course, with about 80 percent of DT's planned capital expenditure of €10 billion (US$13.8 billion) during the next three years going into the carrier's access networks (fixed and mobile).

But no one should expect DT, or any other large carrier, to plan nationwide FTTH. "No [privately held carrier] can afford full national FTTH -- it just costs too much," said Baujard.

The operator, which has operations around Central and Eastern Europe as well as Germany, isn't just investing in the physical access layer, though, as DT has also been looking at ways to improve its efficiency and customer experience by introducing new Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) technologies. (See The SPIT Manifesto.)

Baujard, formerly of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), noted that the main complexity DT has faced has been in the provisioning of its fixed-service bundles. So it has deployed a set of new OSS tools at T-Hrvatski Telekom , its subsidiary in Croatia, that enables plug-and-play provisioning for customers who sign up for dual-play (broadband and voice) and triple-play (IPTV, broadband, and voice) services at a high street shop and take home the gateway and router to self-install.

This move has helped cut provisioning times considerably, noted the CTO, with triple-play service activation now happening in less than five days.

"We are trying to make life easier for our customers and for us," noted the CTO.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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