Europeans Advance FTTx Plans

Slowly but surely, Europe is dragging itself into the fiber access world –- though some parts of the continent are doing it quicker than others.

BT takes its next step
BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) today announced details of several service pilots that will take its fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) plans, announced earlier this year, to the next level. (See BT Unveils FTTC Pilots, BT Preps FTTC Trial, and BT Unveils $3B FTTx Plan.)

The British incumbent will perform an initial trial of FTTC and VDSL2 technology in Kesgrave, Suffolk, involving a handful of households early next year. Following that, BT will dig new fiber to remote cabinets housing VDSL2 equipment in two locations -- Muswell Hill in North London and Whitchurch, South Glamorgan, in Wales (on the outskirts of Cardiff) -- where up to 15,000 customers in each area will be hooked up to the faster connections starting in the summer of 2009.

The operator says the locations will allow it to test its new broadband service in semi-rural as well as urban areas.

BT adds that the trials will enable downlink speeds of up to 40 Mbit/s, but hasn't provided any guidance on potential uplink speeds. A BT spokesman says, though, that the carrier is encouraged by similar FTTC/VDSL2 services in Germany, where uplink speeds of more than 10 Mbit/s have been achieved. (See DT Plans M&A, IPTV Push and DT Flings Billions at Fiber Access.)

The carrier hasn't decided on its technology partners for next summer's trials. The BT spokesman says an Invitation to Tender (ITT) will be issued "in due course." Among the vendors expected to bid for the trials, which would provide a proving ground for BT's broader FTTC/VDSL2 ambitions, are Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Nokia Networks , which is relying on VDSL2 business to keep itself in the fixed broadband access market. (See Nokia Siemens Dumps on GPON, Ericsson Wins VDSL2 Deal, Belgacom Picks AlcaLu VDSL2, and Huawei Launches FTTx Products.)

In the meantime, BT has gone live with its greenfield fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot at Ebbsfleet in Southeast England, where the first few residents have just moved in to the new housing development. (See BT Goes With Huawei for FTTH and 2Wire's BT Coup.)

Norway adds more fiber
While the Brits wait for their fiber diet, the Scandinavians are well past the snacking stage.

The majority of Europe's fiber access customers are in the northern nations of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, where dedicated point-to-point fiber connections, rather than shared PON or FTTC, have dominated the many municipal and competitive operator deployments. (See Report: EMEA Set for FTTH Surge, Fiber to the Finns, FTTH Technology Fracas Continues, PacketFront Scores in Norway, PacketFront Wins in Norway, PacketFront Deployed in Sweden, PacketFront Does FTTH in Norway, Labs2 Uses Cisco Gear, Vasteras Community Fiber, B2 Uses Cisco Gear, PacketFront Signs in Sweden, PacketFront, Ementor Win City Net, and PacketFront Wins Swedish Deal.)

Now the Norwegians are to get even more FTTH connections as broadband network operator Asker og Bærum Fibernett AS plans to build open access fiber networks in the neighboring municipalities of Asker and Bærum on the outskirts of the Norwegian capital Oslo.

The project, which will use network infrastructure from ambitious Swedish vendor PacketFront AB , aims to connect up to 50,000 homes in the next four to five years. (See PacketFront Wins in Norway and PacketFront Takes On AlcaLu, Cisco.)

The country's broadband users are also set to benefit from planned investment by the national operator Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), which is to use a mix of PON, DSL, and WiMax to hook up its customers. (See Telenor Plans FTTH, IPTV in 2008 and Telenor Picks AlcaLu FTTH.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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