Asia outstrips Europe, US in fibre rollout

FTTH Council research shows Asian countries taking the top four spots for fibre-to-the-home penetration, with Scandinavia and the US behind

Asian countries continue to surpass Europe and North America in the adoption of fibre-to-the-home technology, according to a new global ranking study by the FTTH Councils of Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan now occupy the top four positions in the FTTH Council Global Ranking, with Asia accounting for more than 27 million of the world's estimated 32 million fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections.

Updated twice yearly, the ranking tracks the level of FTTH market penetration in economies where more than one percent of households are connected to high-speed fibre networks. In total, 14 countries met this threshold, according to the rankings, which was previously updated early this year. The UK did not meet the threshold.

Speaking at the FTTH Council Asia Pacific's annual conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Colin Goodwin, director of FTTH Council Asia Pacific, said FTTH is today's mainstream fixed-access technology for high-speed broadband delivery.

"We have passed the tipping point for FTTH technology," Goodwin said. "There is no doubt that Asia leads the world in high-speed broadband, using FTTH as the fixed-access technology of choice."

Of the four top countries, South Korea now has nearly 37 percent of households connected to fibre, followed by Hong Kong at 27 percent, Japan at 24 percent and Taiwan at 7.7 percent.

Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Denmark — occupied the fifth to ninth spots, while the US came in at tenth place. Singapore rounded up the list at 14th position, with just over one percent of its households connected via FTTH.

Rollout driven by video
According to Lynn Hutcheson, vice president of communication components for research consultancy Ovum, FTTH is ramping up in Asia primarily due to two factors.

"First, operators want to future-proof their networks," Hutcheson told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the FTTH conference. "Many operators want to ensure they have the right networks today to carry their high-speed broadband traffic, as they do not want to put in a new network five years from now."

However, the Ovum analyst noted, the most significant factor in the proliferation of FTTH is Asia's demand for video.

"Video is the biggest driver in terms of FTTH," he said. "Today, there is a growing demand for HDTV [high-definition TV] channels, and other high-speed interactive services, such as games and real-time services on the internet."

Hutcheson added that the cost of fibre is falling due to economies of scale, and this is helping drive FTTH deployments worldwide. However, he noted, installation costs remain high due to labour costs.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.