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Dutch Team Up for FTTH Expansion

Ray Le Maistre
2/5/2009
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While some other European countries appear clueless about how to enable a next-generation broadband society, the Dutch are showing the way with a collaborative effort that includes an existing open access municipal network and the incumbent operator, KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN). (See Britain Botches Broadband.)

The City of Amsterdam first approved the point-to-point fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in January 2006, at which time it became one of the financiers, along with five housing corporations and the ING Group , in the Glasvezelnet Amsterdam (GNA) joint venture. (See Amsterdam Fires Up Muni Broadband, Amsterdam Gets Active With FTTH, and Amsterdam Commits to FTTH.)

Three years on, and the muni rollout has reached 43,000 homes in the Dutch capital, and is ready to start the next stage of construction, which will take the number of homes passed to 100,000.

Local politicians leave no doubt as to how important they see the development of high-speed broadband access. "I expect the expansion of the open fiber network to have far-reaching positive implications for Amsterdam's development," noted Amsterdam's Mayor, Job Cohen, in a statement released by the city's authorities. "Today, like energy and water supply broadband is an essential necessity that should be accessible to all."

Maarten Van Poelgeest, an Amsterdam Alderman, added: "Fast networks are important for the future of the city of Amsterdam. We want our citizens to be offered the best in telecare, e-Health, distance learning and teleworking. As the construction of this fiber network will take quite a few years the right time to start is now."

The timing issue seems even more important as countries like South Korea adopt strategies to build 1 Gbit/s access networks (see this article from JoongAng Daily), and as the use of bandwidth-hungry applications continues to grow. (See The Gigabit Household: Only a Matter of Time.) [Ed. note: Are you listening, Britain?]

Now, to help take the project to the next level, the recently approved joint venture between KPN and network builder Reggefiber BV is taking a 70 percent stake in the network, and KPN is to become one of the companies offering services over the open access network. The deal is subject to approval by the Dutch competition authorities. (See KPN, Reggefiber JV Approved and Dutch Hold Back on FTTH Frenzy.)

The remaining 30 percent holding is being retained by the City of Amsterdam and the housing groups. Key decisions on the project will require an 80 percent majority vote, while an independent "Priority Foundation" with veto rights over key issues, such as the open access nature of the network, will be created.

Once 100,000 homes have been passed, a decision will be taken whether to extend the Amsterdam network to the remaining 250,000 homes and businesses, as the network, notes the City of Amsterdam statement, has to be shown to be economically viable.

In its own statement, KPN notes that it is currently involved in 10 pilot schemes that involve fiber rollout, five of which involve FTTH builds (the others being fiber to the curb with VDSL2 as the final connection). It says that in the second half of 2009 it will assess all the pilots and then "determine the speed and direction of a possible further fiber roll-out."

One consideration likely to be raised by KPN is the technology being used in the Amsterdam network, which is taking a single fiber to every home rather than using PON (passive optical network) technology that shares fiber capacity among a number of end users. (See The Future of Fiber Access.)

Certainly the City of Amsterdam is convinced that its current point-to-point (P2P) strategy is the right one to adopt. The P2P architecture, notes the City, "ensures capacity even when many neighbors are teleworking or watching videos at the same time. The environment benefits as well: fiber-only networks consume 10 to 15 times less energy than networks that combine glass fiber and copper."

The Netherlands isn't the only European country where FTTH developments are underway, though it is clearly among the more advanced in terms of its regulation, strategy, and rollout: It is currently ranked seventh in Europe in terms of FTTH penetration. (See Swedes Top Euro FTTH Ranking, French Test In-Building FTTH, European Minnow Boasts Fastest FTTH, Portugal 'Gets' FTTH, Pyramid Reports on FTTx, and French Do Deal on FTTH.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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