Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B

Hooking up every home in the U.K. with a dedicated fiber connection would cost £28.8 billion (US$50.8 billion), according to a new report published by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) , the British government's advisory group on broadband issues.

The BSG's report, published today, examines the cost of taking fiber to each of the U.K.'s 27.2 million homes and businesses and examines the variations in costs that would arise from the use of different technologies.

The report comes only two months after the U.K.'s national operator, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), unveiled plans to invest £1.5 billion ($2.65 billion) in so-called "super-fast broadband" technologies. (See BT Unveils $3B FTTx Plan and BT's FTTH Conceit.)

Digging deep for FTTH costs
The BSG report's numbers will provide an interesting reference for BT, its wholesale broadband customers, and the U.K.'s alternative broadband infrastructure players, all of which are keen to understand the economics of fiber access deployments.

“This is the most comprehensive analysis produced to date on the costs of deploying fibre in the UK,” stated BSG CEO Antony Walker in a prepared statement. “The scale of the costs looks daunting but the report does shed light on how some of these costs can be reduced and what the likely extent of commercial rollout will be. It should focus minds of commercial players, policy makers and regulators on the potential solutions to these challenges.”

Using data provided by analyst house Analysys Mason , which undertook an intensive study of various fiber access technologies, the BSG found that the most expensive option, costing £28.8 billion, would be to run point-to-point fiber from local exchanges to each home and business.

Hooking up each potential end user with an FTTH connection using GPON technology, with each fiber running from the local exchange being shared by an average of 32 customers, would cost £24.5 billion ($43.2 billion).

Deploying a fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) infrastructure, and using VDSL technology to provide a broadband service over a copper line to each customer's premises, would be much cheaper, costing a total £5.1 billion ($9 billion), according to the BSG report, which can be found here.

That would put the cost of an FTTC/VDSL national rollout at 18 percent of a full point-to-point fiber network, and 21 percent of the cost of an FTTH/GPON network.

But even the cheapest fiber option would involve a much greater capital commitment to British broadband than has been made to date, notes the report. While the U.K. has nearly 100 percent broadband coverage from its numerous DSL and cable broadband service providers, a national FTTC/VDSL rollout "would cost three or four times more than the telecoms sector has spent in deploying the current generation of broadband services."

The BSG notes that the "largest single cost component is the civil infrastructure (the cost of deploying and installing the fibre in new or existing ducts)." Those costs could be reduced by reusing existing ducts, sharing infrastructure owned by other companies, such as utility companies, and "the use of overhead fibre distribution in some areas."

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DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:32:51 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B Gummint forecasting is usually on the high side for big infrastructure projects. In the States, it helps the forecaster get a bigger budget approved and that gives them more people, power, and a parking spot in the shade.
Mark Sebastyn 12/5/2012 | 3:32:51 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B There's no way it can cost this much. 20-25M UK households, aerial connections similar to East Coast USA but with higher density. Exactly why are they projecting costs higher than FiOS? It should be around $30B, and probably less.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:32:37 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B Does anybody know the real costs of FiOS? Where does one get that info?
Duh! 12/5/2012 | 3:32:36 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B > Does anybody know the real costs of FiOS? Where does one get that info?

Um... how about here? http://investor.verizon.com/
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:32:33 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B VZ's data here for FiOS isn't complete and is far from transparent. I perceive it as similar to the real estate industry's data (including support from the Fed) about how the housing price increases weren't a bubble and similar to the government's method to a gauge inflation. These things are far from arm's length nor are they independently audited in a manner to earn trust despite their claims otherwise.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:32:30 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B I think an accurate cost analysis would look at the suppliers accounts receivables (per FiOS orders exclusively), labor costs incl. benefits, pole replacement costs, backhaul costs, government graft, sales and marketing, etc., etc., etc. all without cross subsidies from the existing, legacy natural monopolies.

I wonder if the only way to truly determine these costs is to break out the fiber over builders into independently audited companies? Then one could determine trend lines for costs per access bit transported and costs per internet bit transported. Technology selection, the focus of the referenced article, probably is mostly significant in that it supports churn (as deployment nearly implies obsolescence.)

Until we have actuals it seems like Robert Moses giving pro forma projections to build infrastructure by presenting estimates like $32,456,717,812.26 which implies significance and precision for an unknown that doesn't really exist.
Frank 12/5/2012 | 3:32:30 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B rj is correct, of course. Implied by this, also, is a larger issue: no broad consensus on accepted benchmarks yet exists for FTTH cost factors, never mind for auditing purposes, that would otherwise serve as legitimate comparison points in these regards. The following article from Last Mile Magazine may not be a direct hit in answering these issues, but I found it both helpful and interesting, nonetheless:

FTTH Architectural Choices
By Bhavani Rao | August 2008

jayja 12/5/2012 | 3:32:27 PM
re: Report: UK FTTH Would Cost $50B Several years ago BT made a presentation reporting that between 1/3 and 2/3 of their subscriber drop cables could not support VDSL. I wonder how much drop cable replacement is built in to the $9B VDSL figure?
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