Asia powers home with fiber deployment

Region continues to surpass Europe and North America in adoption of fiber-to-the-home, with Asian economies in top four positions of global rankings.

KUALA LUMPUR--Asian countries continue to surpass Europe and North America in the adoption of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) 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 FTTH connections.

Updated twice a year, the ranking tracks the level of FTTH market penetration in economies where more than 1 percent of households are connected to high-speed fiber networks. In total, 14 countries met this threshold, according to the rankings, which was previously updated early this year.

Malaysian FTTH on track

Malaysia's plans to wire up the nation using FTTH technology is on track, says a senior government official. Zamani Zakariah, senior director of the country's industry regulator, Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), said the government is "at the tail end" of establishing its agreement with the service provider and the deal "will be signed soon".
The government last October proposed an ambitious plan, led by state-owned Telekom Malaysia (TM), to wire up the country with a "last mile" fiber-optic network covering 2.2 million premises in urban areas.
Speaking at the conference, TM Group CEO Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa said the first phase--dubbed High-Speed Broadband (HSBB)--will cost some 11.3 billion ringgit (US$3.49 billion), covering 1.3 million homes in urban areas.
"Subscribers will receive a minimum of 20Mbps, and the areas covered will include the inner Klang Valley and industrial regions in each state, such as the Iskandar Malaysia," he said. Phases two and three, dubbed Broadband for the General Public (BBGP), will comprise broadband service up to 2Mbps and delivered based on a mix of wired and wireless technologies.

Speaking at the FTTH Council's Asia-Pacific annual conference here 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 its household connected to fiber, 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 through ninth spots, while the United States came in at 10th. Singapore rounded up the list at 14th position, with just over 1 percent of its households connected via FTTH.

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 [only] put in a new network five years from now."

However, the Ovum analyst noted, the most significant push 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 fiber is falling due to economies of scale, and this is helping drive FTTH deployments worldwide. However, he noted, installation costs remain high due to labor cost.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.