Fibre to the home: New builds and digging rules revamp see FTTH climbing in Norway

Fibre to the home connections are on the up as Norway looks to smooth the path for ISPs to lay more cable.

Broadband delivered over dedicated fibre connections all the way into private homes (fibre to the home or FTTH) is rising steadily in Norway.

However, while most subscribers are still on xDSL, the number of premises fitted with their own fibre connections is growing every year, with both housing developers and most broadband service providers are working on increasing the FTTH uptake in the country.

Difficult regulations

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Norway's Ministry of Transport and Communication is in the process of rewriting the regulations for digging trenches for fibre cables in Norway, easing the rules ISPs must follow in order to lay new fibre.

Currently, there's a very difficult to negotiate and incoherent set of rules and regulations governing such digging work, as the country's 428 municipalities themselves each can set their own rules.

This means that rules can differ from one town to the next, greatly inhibiting the rate of progress of laying new fibre in the ground. Many argue that this also is a source of "digital divide" between cities and rural areas, with the sparsely-populated parts of the country losing out to urban areas in the race for better broadband infrastructure.

The ministry has been working on the new regulations for three years, with the intention to deliver them this summer. As of now, however, they still haven't been published.

'Microtrenching' wanted

The fibre operators want to be allowed to mill their fibre cables 15cm to 20cm into the asphalt of streets and roads, a technique often referred to as "microtrenching".

This method greatly reduces the cost and time to lay down fibre in the ground, compared to digging traditional trenches 60cm to 80cm into the ground with outer tubes for the fibre cables.

Telenor, Norway's incumbent telco, recently petitioned the government, begging them to make sure the new regulations allow microtrenching for broadband and FTTH applications. According to Telenor, using microtrenching would allow the company to lay 150m of cable per day, as opposed to the 40m it can achieve with conventional techniques.

Earlier this year, the company pledged to spend NOK 4bn (€500m) on fibre infrastructure, citing a rise in bandwidth demand from business customers.

New homes with fibre

Earlier this month, FTTH operator Altibox published a press release stating that the company has signed an agreement with one of the biggest housing developers in the country, SelvaagBolig. Selvaag currently has more than 1200 new dwellings in development, focusing in particular on the housing market in the greater Oslo area, as well as the cities Stavanger and Bergen.

The agreement between the companies states that the future new homes that Selvaag builds will have Altibox as the preferred partner for fibre connectivity.

"Home buyers are concerned with which kind of internet connection their new home has, and many demand fibre networks," Selvaag portfolio director Halvard Kverne said in a statement. "In a few years' time, all new houses will be built with fibre connections, and we want to provide our customers with this technology today."

Altibox was Norway's first FTTH operator in the private market, and has over 300,000 customers. The company grew its customer base with 43,000 new subscribers in 2012.

According to recent statistics from the Fibre to the Home Council, FTTH penetration in Norway stands at just over 15 percent.