Derek Kelly, Lumos’ VP of market development, went as far as to say that “fiber is always the answer,” and suggested cable alternatives will not stand the test of time. Kelly claimed that as $42.5 billion is set to roll out through the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, relying on investments in fiber will provide stability over the next 15 years.
“I think we’ve all seen DSL and fixed wireless projects get funded over the last couple of years. And then what happens? Those areas ultimately become blocked from future funding until the definitions change. And then they become available for another grant. And we see public dollars going on top of previous public dollars.” Kelly said. He noted Lumos defines “unserved being no cable, underserved means they’re stuck with cable. And then there’s everyone else that has life-changing fiber. So we don’t care about speeds at this point.”
While acknowledging the need for funding in areas without even cable access, he noted another large-scale program after the BEAD initiative is unlikely. “Cable modems aren’t going to keep up with these definitions forever. Their lobbyists aren’t going to be able to convince people forever just make sure that they just barely can meet the definition of unserved,” he said. “We have communities that don’t have access to fiber. The FCC and NTIA may consider them as served today. And I agree the funding should go to areas that don’t even have cable yet, but the time is coming, where cable is going to be what’s unserved or underserved.”
Fiber execs mostly targeted cable’s “Achilles heel,” which is its lacking symmetric speed capabilities (upstream and downstream).
AT&T Fiber’s EVP Chris Sambar told a large keynote audience, “Don’t ask cable about symmetrical speeds, they don’t even know what that means.” In an earlier blog post, he wrote, “Fiber is superior technology for things like uploading large files and increased bandwidth. It delivers an amazing experience, with multi-gig speeds and equally fast up- and downlinks. It’s also critical for powering technologies like 5G (backhaul) and edge computing (fiber access for ultra low latency). And with a far superior upgradeable capacity to handle soaring demand for high-quality bandwidth well into the future.”
However, Jay Lee, CTO of ATX Networks said that cable operators are “right in the throes” of upgrading their networks to get to full DOCSIS 3.1, and that high-split type of architecture will allow them to achieve competitive speeds in the upstream. “Their downstream is probably two gigabits per second now and there’s a line of sight to be more than that,” he said. “Is it 10 Gig PON? No. But it’s still in that gig threshold that I think is as important from a consumer standpoint,” he added.
The next plan phase for cable is to move up to DOCSIS 4.0, which starts to get toward multi-gigabit upstream and five-plus in the downstream, sometimes upwards of 10 in the downstream. Lee noted that plenty of cable companies are doing “lots” of their own fiber buildouts. “Some of the statements made on cable were like ‘they can’t do anything about it’ and certainly they can. DOCSIS 3.1 high-split is just the start.”
Jeff Heynen, VP at Dell’Oro Group echoed Lee’s comments, noting that current DOCSIS 3.1 mid-split can deliver 2 Gbps downstream and up to 200 Mbps upstream, which is what Comcast is offering today. Charter and Cox’s high-split offerings can go even further, delivering 2 Gbps downstream and up to 1 Gbps upstream.
A recent interoperability test conducted by Cable Labs showed that DOCSIS 4.0 modems paired with CCAP and vCMTS platforms in high-split configurations could deliver up to 8.6 Gbps downstream and 1.5 Gbps upstream. Cable operators have claimed DOCSIS 4.0 modems should become available later this year, with volumes in 2024. Those downstream speeds would give cable “very comparable service tiers to most fiber providers,” Heynen said. “And this is before the outside plant is upgraded to DOCSIS 4.0, which will be capable of delivering up to 10 Gbps down and 6 Gbps up.” However, other analysts have hinted that DOCSIS 4.0 rollouts will take longer than cable companies are saying.
Global fixed broadband connections reached 1.377 billion as of Q1-2023, up by 83 million from a year earlier and reflecting an annual growth rate of 1.59%, according to Point Topic.
There was a decline in fixed broadband subscriptions in 18 countries which mainly include emerging markets, as well as some saturated markets such as Singapore. However, while there were fluctuations in growth rates across regions and markets, the overall trend indicates a steady expansion of global broadband connectivity.
Among global regions, Africa, East Asia and America Other saw the fastest growth in broadband connections (2.9%, 2.2% and 1.8%), not least due to healthy increases in broadband subscribers in the vast markets of Egypt, Brazil and China.
The share of FTTH/B in the total fixed broadband subscriptions continued to increase and stood at 66.7%. Broadband connections based on other technologies saw their market shares shrink further, with an exception of satellite and wireless (mainly FWA).
VDSL subscriber numbers grew in ten countries, while they dropped in at least 22 markets as consumers migrated to FTTH/B.
The highest FTTH/B broadband subscriber growth rates in Q1 2023 were in Algeria, Peru and UK.
At 21.6 million, the quarterly net adds were close to the figure we recorded a year ago, though the growth rate (1.59%) was slower, compared to 1.77% in Q1 2022, with global inflation and economic instability having an impact.
East Asia continued to dominate in Q1 2023, maintaining its position as the largest market with a 49.6% share of global fixed broadband subscribers. This substantial market share is primarily driven by China with its vast population.
In Q1 2023, broadband subscriber base grew faster in China, Hong Kong and Korea, compared to Q4 2022. As a result, the region’s net adds share globally went up from 63.2% to 68.8%. Asia Other accounted for 10.8% of the global broadband market, similarly to the previous quarter, though the region’s net adds share went down from 12.8% to 9.4%.
Europe’s market shares remained rather consistent, though Eastern Europe saw their net adds share decline from 3.4% to 0.5%, as a result of slower growth in almost all markets and the decline in broadband subscribers in Russia having an especially significant impact due to its market size.
Similarly, Americas maintained relatively stable market shares of 10.3% and 8.1% respectively, while America – Other’s net adds share increased from 7.8% to 9%, driven by higher growth in such sizeable markets as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, to name a few.
Next Point Topic looks at fixed broadband penetration among population, comparing it to growth rates across the regions.
Africa and Asia Other continue to have relatively low fixed broadband penetration rates among their populations. In Q1 2023, this metric in Africa stood at 4.6%, while Asia Other reached 5.6%. These figures indicate the potential for future expansion in these regions. Not surprisingly, Africa also recorded the highest quarterly growth rate of 2.9%.
The markets of East Asia and America Other followed closely with growth rates of 2.2% and 1.8% respectively, despite East Asia already having the highest population penetration at 41.9%. This reflects a widespread adoption of fixed broadband services in East Asia, while America Other showcases steady growth in a region with significant potential, where broadband penetration is among the lowest, at 17.2%.
Eastern Europe displayed a modest growth rate of 0.2% with a population penetration of 24.8%. Some markets in this region still have a lot of headspace when it comes to broadband adoption but the growth was sluggish, likely due to economic pressures. Other European regions showed a slightly higher growth rate, with Europe Other at 0.5%, coupled with the second highest population penetration of 39.4%. These figures indicate a mature market with limited growth opportunities.
Among the largest twenty broadband markets all but one saw fixed broadband subscribers grow in Q1 2023, although in ten of them the growth was slower than in the Q4 2022. There was a slight drop in broadband subscribers in Russia which is under international sanctions.
The less saturated broadband markets of India, Egypt, Brazil and Mexico recorded the highest quarterly growth rates in Q1 2023, all higher than 2%. China recorded an above 2% growth as well. At the other end of the spectrum, the mature markets of Germany, France, Japan, UK, and Italy saw modest growth rates at below 0.5%. At the same time, Italy was among the countries that saw one of the largest improvements in growth rates, from -0.44% in Q4 2022 to 0.04% in Q1 2023, as its GDP growth also went from negative to positive in that period. Mexico, China and Brazil recorded the largest improvements in their growth rates, at +1.14.%, +0.52% and +0.41% respectively.
Between Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, the share of FTTH/B connections in the total fixed broadband subscriptions went up by 0.7% and stood at 66.7%. Broadband connections based on other technologies saw their market shares shrink further, with an exception of satellite and wireless (mainly FWA), which remained stable.
FTTx (mainly VDSL) share stood at 6.7%. VDSL subscriber numbers grew in ten countries (including modest quarterly increase in the large VDSL markets of Turkey, Czech Republic, Greece and Germany, for example), while they fell in 22 other markets as consumers migrated to FTTH/B.
It remains to be seen whether consumers will continue to gravitate toward fibre broadband offerings, particularly as global economies face potential slowdown and inflationary pressures.
In terms of FTTH/B broadband net additions in Q1 2023, China continued to maintain a significant lead with 13.5 million while Brazil added 1.4 million. Mexico is back in the top ten league, having pushed out Argentina this quarter.
Satellite broadband also saw a modest growth of 1.3% while wireless broadband demonstrated continued relevance with a respectable growth rate of 4.9%. These trends can be attributed to the demand for connectivity in remote or underserved areas where traditional broadband infrastructure is not feasible.
The diverse growth rates among different broadband technologies highlight the dynamic nature of the industry as consumers seek more reliable and high-speed connections. The significant increase in FTTH/B connections and the growth of satellite and wireless broadband underline the ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide and ensure connectivity for all.
The top ten countries by fixed broadband subscribers remained unchanged (Figure 5). As of Q1 2023, China exceeded 0.6 billion fixed broadband subscribers, having added 14.6 million in the quarter. Also, the country is approaching 1.2 billion 5G subscribers, with the service now being used by 84% of the population.
Overall, the latest fixed broadband subscriber data reveals a clear trend towards advanced, high-speed broadband solutions like FTTH/B, while older technologies such as copper-based broadband (ADSL and VDSL) are experiencing a decline, suggesting that the broadband landscape is continuously evolving to meet the growing demand for faster and more reliable connectivity.
Elmwood Lake Apartments is a suburban haven of elevated comfort, where sweet serenity meets desirable convenience. From cozy interiors and relaxing leisure spaces to an idyllic setting next to private Elmwood Lake, the welcoming apartments in Hudsonville, MI, are ready to deliver a heightened living experience.
“With STELLAR Broadband, residents of Elmwood Lake Apartments will enjoy the fastest and most reliable internet service available. STELLAR Broadband’s fiber optic network provides symmetrical speeds of up to 10Gbps so residents can stream, game, and work from home without any lag or buffering,” said Richard Laing, president of STELLAR Broadband.
“Bosgraaf Homes has been building homes in West Michigan for four generations. Over the years, we’ve seen the industry change dramatically thanks to advances in technology. Construction methods have evolved, and the amenities that homeowners expect have grown more sophisticated. We’re grateful for our partnership with STELLAR Broadband, a company that has been at the forefront of the industry for 22 years. Their experience and leadership have helped us make the transition into multi-family housing,” said Mike Bosgraaf, president of Bosgraaf Homes.
The first in the U.S. to bring 10Gbps Internet to the apartment in student housing, STELLAR today serves over 149 communities totaling over 10,000 residents with a wide range of technology solutions, from managed Wi-Fi, TV, and access control to security.
“DTN is excited to partner with Bosgraaf Homes and STELLAR Broadband to provide Elmwood Lake residents with a unique and enjoyable experience. Bosgraaf is building beautiful homes that will be easy to lease, and STELLAR will provide residents and our office with the best possible internet service,” said Dayle Braden, DTN property manager.
“We’ve seen and have been on the forefront of technology evolving from a desired amenity to a necessity. We are proud to partner with Bosgraaf to provide the high-quality technology that their residents expect and deserve,” Laing stated.
About Spartan Net Co, dba STELLAR Broadband:
STELLAR Broadband is the largest residential fiber internet service provider in Michigan, servicing over 149 communities with multi-Gigabit fiber internet. STELLAR provides technology design and installation services for the full portfolio of technologies for multi-tenant developments, including network design, structured wiring, consulting, door entry and access control, engineered Wi-Fi, security, voice, television services, and various Internet of Things solutions. To learn more, visit: www.stellarbb.com
Once again, AT&T ranked #1 in the U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings Leaderboard fromVertical Systems Group (VSG) for a seventh consecutive year. The fiber focused U.S. carrier retained the top spot with the highest number of fiber lit buildings across its footprint in 2022. But there’s a whole lot more AT&T #1 rankings that the carrier has not gotten proper credit for achieving:
- AT&T also holds the #1 ranking in VSG 2022 U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD.
- AT&T ranked #1 for the fifth consecutive year in VSG’s year end 2022 U.S. managed carrier SD-WAN leaderboard.
–>Please see the images below, courtesy of VSG.
Major mobile operators like AT&T and Verizon are actively installing new fiber for their 5G network backhaul, which facilitates new fiber connectivity to nearby commercial sites. T-Mobile no longer has any fiber assets from their Sprint acquisition. They were sold to Cogent along with all other wireline assets in a deal that closed May 1, 2023.
Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, Lumen, Comcast Business, Cox Business, Zayo, Crown Castle, Frontier, Brightspeed, Breezeline and Optimum followed. Those retail and wholesale fiber providers qualified for the leaderboard with 15,000 or more on-net U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings as of year-end 2022.
“Fiber installations at U.S. commercial sites increased in 2022, driven by escalating requirements for gigabit-speed connectivity to support cloud-based services, data centers, 5G rollouts, and other applications,” said Rosemary Cochran, principal of Vertical Systems Group. “New fiber investments in the U.S. will continue to be impacted by pending federal programs and funding initiatives. Opportunities in the commercial segment include monetizing the millions of small buildings underserved.”
U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings LEADERBOARD Highlights:
- The 2022 LEADERBOARD roster increases to twelve commercial fiber providers, up from eleven in 2021.
- AT&T retains the #1 rank on the 2022 U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings LEADERBOARD for the seventh consecutive year.
- Rankings for the top six companies on the 2022 LEADERBOARD are unchanged from 2021, which includes AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, Lumen, Comcast Business, and Cox Business.
- The next six LEADERBOARD provider rankings change as compared to the previous year. Zayo advances to rank seventh ahead of Crown Castle, which dips to eighth. Frontier moves up to ninth position from tenth. Brightspeed debuts in tenth position with fiber assets acquired from Lumen. Breezeline (formerly Atlantic Broadband) falls to eleventh position from ninth. Optimum (Altice USA brand) drops from eleventh to the twelfth and final position.
- The number of 2022 Challenge Tier citations expands from eight to nine with the addition of Ritter Communications.
Market Players include all other fiber providers with fewer than 5,000 U.S. commercial fiber lit buildings. The 2022 Market Players tier covers more than two hundred metro, regional and other fiber providers, including the following companies (in alphabetical order): 11:11 Systems, ACD, Alaska Communications, American Telesis, Armstrong Business Solutions, Astound Business, C Spire, Centracom, Cogent, Conterra, DFN, DQE Communications, Everstream, ExteNet Systems, Fatbeam, FiberLight, First Digital, Flo Networks, Fusion Connect, Google Fiber, GTT, Horizon, Hunter Communications, Logix Fiber Networks, LS Networks, Mediacom Business, MetroNet Business, Midco, Pilot Fiber, PS Lightwave, Shentel Business, Silver Star Telecom, Sonic Business, Sparklight Business, Syringa, T-Mobile, TDS Telecom, TPx, U.S. Signal, Vast Networks, WOW!Business, Ziply Fiber and others.
For this analysis, a fiber lit building is defined as a commercial site or data center that has on-net optical fiber connectivity to a network provider’s infrastructure, plus active service termination equipment onsite. Excluded from this analysis are standalone cell towers, small cells not located in fiber lit buildings, near net buildings, buildings classified as coiled at curb or coiled in building, HFC-connected buildings, carrier central offices, residential buildings, and private or dark fiber installations.
Frontier Communications added record number of fiber broadband customers in the 1st quarter of 2023. The fiber facility based network operator added 87,000 fiber subscribers (including 83,000 residential subs) in the first quarter of 2023, up from +54,000 in the year-ago quarter. Those results beat the 76,000 residential fiber subs Frontier was expected to add in the period. Frontier ended the quarter with 1.76 million fiber customers: 1.65 million residential subscribers and 110,000 business customers.
“We delivered another strong quarter and reached a critical milestone in our transformation. Thanks to our team’s consistent operational performance, we achieved EBITDA growth for the first time in five years,” said Nick Jeffery, President and Chief Executive Officer of Frontier.
“We are creating an internet company that people love. Over the last two years, we have rallied around our purpose of Building Gigabit America, invested in fiber, enhanced our product, put the customer at the center of everything we do and made it easier to do business with us. We are quickly becoming an agile, digital infrastructure company, and I’m confident we will return to growth this year.”
Frontier said it built fiber to an additional 339,000 locations in Q1 2023, up 60% from the 211,000 it built in the year-ago period. Frontier’s Q1 buildout was better than the 300,000 locations expected by the analysts at New Street Research. Frontier ended the quarter with 5.5 million fiber passings and 15.4 million total passings.
First-Quarter 2023 Consolidated Financial Results:
• Revenue of $1.44 billion decreased 0.5% from the first quarter of 2022 as growth in consumer, business and wholesale fiber was more than offset by declines in legacy copper
• Operating income was $143 million and net income was $3 million
• Adjusted EBITDA of $519 million increased 2.0% over the first quarter of 2022 as revenue declines were more than offset by lower content, selling, general and administrative expenses, and cost-saving initiatives
• Adjusted EBITDA margin of 36.0% increased from 35.2% in the first quarter of 2022
• Capital expenditures of $1.15 billion increased from $0.45 billion in the first quarter of 2022 as fiber expansion initiatives accelerated First-Quarter 2023
• Consumer revenue of $761 million decreased 1.9% from the first quarter of 2022 as strong growth in fiber broadband was more than offset by declines in legacy copper broadband and voice
• Consumer fiber revenue of $448 million increased 10.1% over the first quarter of 2022 as growth in consumer broadband, voice, and other more than offset declines in video
• Consumer fiber broadband revenue of $298 million increased 17.3% over the first quarter of 2022 driven by growth in fiber broadband customers
• Consumer fiber broadband customer net additions of 84,000 resulted in consumer fiber broadband customer growth of 19.5% from the first quarter of 2022
• Consumer fiber broadband customer churn of 1.20% was roughly flat with churn of 1.19% in the first quarter of 2022
• Consumer fiber broadband ARPU of $61.44 decreased 1.1% from the first quarter of 2022 driven primarily by the autopay and gift-card incentives introduced in the third quarter of 2021 First-Quarter 2023
Business and Wholesale Results:
• Business and wholesale revenue of $657 million decreased 1.4% from the first quarter of 2022 as growth in fiber was more than offset by declines in copper
• Business and wholesale fiber revenue of $281 million increased 6.0% over the first quarter of 2022 as growth in business was partly offset by modest declines in wholesale
• Business fiber broadband customer churn of 1.45% increased from 1.24% in the first quarter of 2022
• Business fiber broadband ARPU of $104.38 decreased 1.2% from the first quarter of 2022
While Frontier’s fiber growth engine continues to hum along, the company is dealing with higher costs related to its fiber initiative. The company raised its 2023 capex guidance to a range of $3 billion to $3.2 billion, up from an original outlook of $2.8 billion.
Frontier blamed the increase on a couple of factors – a decision to build inventory opportunistically where it saw supply chains ease a bit in the quarter and higher build costs as it scales its build into new geographies. Frontier is also seeing higher labor costs being driven by general inflation and higher rates as some of its multi-year labor contracts come up for renewal.
The anticipated increase in capex this year concerned investors. Frontier shares were down $2.33 (-10.94%) to $19.13 each in Friday morning trading.
Overall, Frontier expects fiber build costs in 2023 to be in the range of $1,000 to $1,100. But it’s confident that total project build costs will remain at about $1,000 per location as it mixes in lower-cost locations in some new-build states and benefits from aerial builds and an increased focus on multiple dwelling units (MDUs), Frontier CFO Scott Beasley said on Friday’s earnings call.
The current capex picture isn’t expected to impact Frontier’s overall fiber buildout/upgrade plan. “We’re confident that the 10 million locations is still attractive to build out,” Beasley said. Frontier is also continuing to explore an additional 1 million to 2 million additional fiber passings beyond the original 10 million target.
Frontier says it’s too early to tell how this year’s cost headwinds might impact future opportunities coming by way of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. New Street Research estimates that there are 1.2 million BEAD-eligible locations in Frontier’s footprint. New Street Research expects ARPU pressure at Frontier to ease in the second quarter of the year and return to growth in the third quarter.
Frontier recently initiated several consumer pricing changes for value-added services that were previously free. Whole-home Wi-Fi, for example, now costs $10 per month, its Home Shield Elite product is now $6 per month extra and the company is now charging $50 for professional installs. Those actions are driving new fiber customer monthly ARPU to a range of $65 to $70, the company said.
Frontier is also speeding up its original cost savings target to $500 million by the end of 2024. Its prior target was $400 million by the end of 2024. Frontier is approaching that target through a range of streamlining and simplification initiatives, including improved field operations, self-service capabilities, the consolidation of call centers and an ongoing reduction in copper infrastructure.
Frontier’s guidance for the full year 2023:
• Adjusted EBITDA of $2.11 – $2.16 billion, unchanged from prior guidance
• Fiber build of 1.3 million new locations, unchanged from prior guidance
• Cash capital expenditures of $3.00 – $3.20 billion, an increase from prior guidance of $2.80 billion, reflecting higher inventory levels and fiber build costs
• Cash taxes of approximately $20 million, unchanged from prior guidance
• Net cash interest payments of approximately $655 million, an increase from prior guidance of $630 million, reflecting the $750 million of debt raised in March 2023
• Pension and OPEB expense of approximately $50 million (net of capitalization), unchanged from prior guidance
• Cash pension and OPEB contributions of approximately $125 million, unchanged from prior guidance
Frontier Communications reports added 45,000 fiber broadband subscribers in 4Q-2021 – best in 5 years!
This week GTT Communications, Infinera, and Bluebird Network all announced network expansions within the U.S. The various announcements follow AT&T’s deal last month with venture capital firm BlackRock to deploy a multi-gigabit fiber network to 1.5 million customer locations using a commercial open access platform.
GTT Communications, Inc., a leading global provider of managed network and security services to multinational organizations, has announced that it has expanded its partnership with Ziply Fiber, a provider of fiber networks purpose-built for the internet, to establish a new network Point of Presence (PoP) to serve the fast-growing data center market in Portland, Oregon. The two companies linked in hopes to “serve the fast-growing data center market” in the city, according to the announcement.
The new PoP is providing an initial 400G of capacity to customers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region and will expand the power of GTT’s global Tier 1 IP network by offering an additional option for customers to connect in 11 major data centers and the Hillsboro subsea cable landing station, expanding the reach of GTT via Ziply Fiber’s high-count Silicon Forest fiber cross connection service.
“We are pleased to expand our partnership with GTT to establish a new network PoP in Portland to help customers in the region and beyond to connect to area data centers as well as other geographies,” said Mike Daniel, vice president of Enterprise Sales at Ziply Fiber. “Our regional fiber network, combined with GTT’s global Tier 1 network and suite of leading managed networking and security services, will give enterprises new options to improve connectivity securely and reliably.”
GTT’s global Tier 1 IP backbone is ranked among the largest in the industry1 and connects more than 260 cities on six continents. With the addition of the new Portland PoP, GTT customers in the region can benefit from the improved connectivity, security and scalability available through GTT’s suite of managed connectivity services.
Ziply Fiber’s network was architected to meet today’s increasing digital demands and was engineered to be fully redundant, with a dual infrastructure that maintains customer connections even when issues arise. Ziply Fiber maintains a four-state footprint in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and has built redundancies into its network to avoid service interruptions, while updating routing to steer clear of congestion across the broader internet. This ensures content is accessible directly on the fiber backbone and can be accessed more quickly.
“This new PoP deployment creates an exciting opportunity to use the Ziply Fiber network to allow our regional data center customers to easily connect to and take advantage of GTT’s global Tier 1 IP network and our full suite of managed services offerings,” said Jim Delis, president, Americas Division, GTT. “Our work with Ziply Fiber demonstrates GTT’s continued focus on investment to expand the reach of our network for customers with locations in the Pacific Northwest.”
GTT will offer additional customer options to connect in 11 data centers and the Hillsboro subsea cable landing station. Jim Delis, president for GTT’s Americas Division, stated the PoP deployment will enable the network provider’s data center customers to link into its tier-one IP network.
Infinera announced today that the Louisiana Board of Regents, acting on behalf of the statewide Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure (LONI) and the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University (LSU) and Agricultural and Mechanical College, has selected and deployed Infinera’s advanced coherent optical networking solutions to upgrade LONI. Also announced today is the initial deployment of four 400G optical channels along a 220-mile intrastate route in Louisiana.
LONI connects 38 university campuses and data centers and provides connectivity to additional research and education networks in other states. The solution, which increases LONI’s network capacity by a factor of 10, comprises Infinera’s XTM Series open line system and GX Series transponders. The upgraded network expands the ability for the research and education community to share and access information, resources, and remote instruments in real time.
LONI promotes scientific computing and technology across Louisiana and is the backbone infrastructure to the state’s heroic research efforts. These efforts are made possible by utilizing cutting-edge technology to push the limits of scientific discovery at leading university campuses and achievable with LONI’s high-bandwidth optical network. Infinera’s XTM Series line system coupled with GX Series high-performance transponders equips LONI with a 200G/400G/600G solution that offers unmatched high-bandwidth services to its customers today and is scalable to 800G in the future. Infinera’s combined solution delivers superior performance, increasing LONI’s service offering with more bandwidth, greater flexibility, and faster data transfer capabilities.
“A high-capacity state-of-the-art network is critical to enabling breakthrough discoveries that can only be achieved through multi-site collaboration and cloud connectivity,” said Lonnie Leger, LONI’s Executive Director. “We are committed to offering our members up to 100G and deploying Infinera’s innovative solutions, which exceeded both our expectations and commitment, enabling us to exceed what other state universities can offer.”
“LONI operates with a small staff, which requires a highly automated network and cost-effective solution that enables them to meet their bandwidth growth requirements,” said Nick Walden, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales, Infinera. “The Infinera team worked closely with LONI to deliver a solution that met their needs now and positions them to meet future bandwidth needs with minimal maintenance and manpower to operate.”
“As bandwidth continues its relentless growth driven by new high-speed applications such as 5G, [augmented reality], [virtual reality], and cloud services, legacy copper-based networks – such as DSL and cable – are simply not capable [of] meeting the bandwidth requirements,” Robert Shore, SVP of marketing at Infinera, told SDxCentral.
Shore added that the current fiber boom “reinforces Infinera’s focus on continuing to innovate and manufacture optical transport solutions that can help network operators effectively leverage their fiber deployments from the core of their network all the way to the very edge.”
Infinera also announced that its ICE6 solution was deployed along the trans-Pacific Unity Submarine Cable System connecting Japan and the U.S., doubling the capacity of that connection.
Bluebird Network completed a 126-mile fiber buildout in Illinois. The route connects the towns of Aurora, Dixon, DeKalb, Sterling, and Rock Falls to Bluebird’s network and services, and provides a “diverse route” to Chicago, the company stated.
“Bluebird has no plans to slow down its fiber expansions any time soon,” Bluebird Network President and CEO Michael Morey stated in the release tied to its Kansas and Iowa expansion. “To foster even more growth and strengthen connectivity for businesses in the Midwest, we have builds underway for additional expansions coming online this summer.”
Those moves come on the heels of the AT&T/BlackRock JV that is looking to deploy fiber to more than 30 million locations within AT&T’s 21-state wireline footprint by the end of 2025, and positions the newly created Gigapower entity to boost its reach outside of those initial 21 states.
The deal also prompted a predication from Analysys Mason, saying the move further indicates “that the [U.S.] wireline market is entering a period of profound transformation that will leave it more aligned with the market structures seen in Europe.”
by ITU News
The ITU Telecommunications standardization (ITU-T) working groups on broadband access over metallic conductors (Q4/15) and optical systems for fiber access networks (Q2/15), established in 1997 (25 years ago), laid the foundations for fixed broadband and have since then facilitated the meteoric rise in access speeds. Both groups are part of ITU-T Study Group 15, which looks at networks, technologies and infrastructures for transport, access and home.
DSL: ITU-T Q4/15 was formed to make DSL globally scalable:
“What followed was a 25-year journey of dedicated engineers fighting physics for ever-higher broadband speeds, through several generations of ITU-standardized DSL technology,” says Q4/15 Rapporteur Frank Van der Putten (a strong colleague of this author from 1996-2002 when both of us worked on ADSL and VDSL standards in T1E1.4 and the ADSL Forum).
Building on prior work by Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) committee T1E1.4 and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) working group TM6, the DSL technologies standardized by ITU now connect over 600 million homes and businesses to the Internet.
“DSL changed the world by enabling mass-market broadband,” Van der Putten says.
DSL enabled rapid broadband deployment at low cost because it used the existing telephone wires to the home.
“Championed at first by an impassioned few, continually provoking debates among Q4/15 experts, it has been an intellectual catalyst for the advancement of communications technology,” he adds. “We are proud to have played a part in that.”
While ADSL (asymmetric DSL), as defined by ITU in 1999, could deliver 8 megabits per second (Mbit/s), it was followed by ADSL2plus in 2003 at 24 Mbit/s and the very high speed VDSL2 at 70 Mbit/s. With the introduction of vectoring, VDSL2 reached 100 Mbit/s by 2010 and 300 Mbit/s by 2014.
In 2014, G.fast raised the bar to 1 Gbit/s, doubling this to 2 Gbit/s in 2016. Its successor standard, MGfast, achieves an aggregate bit rate up to 8 gigabits per second (Gbit/s) in Full Duplex mode and 4 Gbit/s in Time Division Duplexing mode.
The architecture standards for DSL, G.fast and MGfast were defined by the Broadband Forum (once known as the ASDL forum), which also plays a key part in promoting interoperability.
Van der Putten explains: “Both technologies intend to meet service providers’ need for a complement to the fibre-to-the-home technologies in scenarios where G.fast or MGfast prove the more cost-efficient strategy.”
The continual upgrading of ITU’s standards has also sparked huge upward revisions in forecasts for the life left in traditional telephone wiring.
Future directions for Q4/15 work include G.fast-based backhaul, MGfast at aggregate data rates of 10 Gbit/s, and ultra-low latency transmission optimized for 5G wireless back/mid-haul, he says.
Cost-efficient fiber access – PON and FTTH:
ITU-T Q2/15 paved the way for passive optical network (PON) technologies as a highly cost-efficient means of enabling FTTH. Optical access networks now serve over a billion users worldwide, mostly based on PON. Q2/15 works closely with Full Service Access Network (FSAN), which collects system requirements from operators to determine common requirements for ITU standards.
“The result has been systems ideally suited for a large group of networks and applications,” says Q2/15 Rapporteur Frank Effenberger.
“The first widely deployed system, G-PON [Gigabit PON], is found almost everywhere now,” he adds.
Q2/15 has developed seven generations of PON systems. The first, pi-PON, operated at 50 Mbit/s. This was followed by A-PON (155 Mbit/s), B-PON (622 Mbit/s), G-PON (2.5 Gbit/s), XG(S)-PON (10 Gbit/s), and NG-PON2 (4 x 10 Gbit/s).
To provide the basis for interoperability, ITU standards specify the control system for PON systems. Q2/15 has also developed a range of implementer’s guides and works closely with FSAN, ATIS, and the Broadband Forum to foster common designs and interoperability.
From 10 to 50 Gbit/s PONs:
Demand for higher capacity keeps growing fast. Optical access solutions also support 5G wireless communications and innovation for smart cities and factories.
“What we are seeing is a gradual evolution from G-PON to XG-PON [a 10G, or 10 Gbit/s, network] and XGS-PON [a 10G symmetric network], which is now being deployed at scale in many countries,” says Effenberger.
The latest generation of ITU-standardized PON, known as “Higher Speed PON”, provides for speeds of 50 Gbit/s per wavelength, up from the 10 Gbit/s of its predecessors. Market demand for Higher Speed PON is expected to begin in 2024.
“Given the large size and cost of the fixed access network, upgrades generally come once per decade,” says Effenberger.
Higher Speed PON includes both single-channel 50 Gbit/s systems to succeed XG(S)-PON and multi-channel 50 Gbit/s systems to succeed today’s NG-PON2 – a 40G PON that operates at 10Gbit/s per wavelength.
Although Higher Speed PON offers a five-fold capacity increase over its predecessors, it has been designed to work with the same fibre plant as G-PON, XG(S)-PON and NG-PON2.
“A successful technology requires a coincidence of both technical feasibility and strong global market demand,” notes Effenberger. “We strongly believe that 50G PON will provide the right capacity, at the right price, and at the right time.”
All-fiber future at Gbit/s speeds:
Q2/15 aims to continue delivering higher-capacity PON solutions, such as a multi-wavelength version of Higher Speed PON, and speeds even higher than 50 Gbit/s on a single wavelength. But passive networks cannot handle all foreseen demand.
“Certain applications will require more dedicated and higher-capacity solutions than PON,” says Effenberger, highlighting the motivations behind Q2/15’s development of various point-to-point bidirectional optics with speeds of 1 Gbit/s, 10 Gbit/s, 25 Gbit/s, and 50 Gbit/s.
Q2/15 continues to study 100 Gbit/s transmission and point-to-point wavelength connections over a shared optical distribution network based on wavelength division multiplexing. “These are likely to find use in wireless fronthaul applications, given their exacting latency requirements,” says Effenberger.
Fiber facility service providers passed 7.9 million additional homes in the U.S. in 2022—the highest annual deployment ever, even with challenges in materials supply chain and labor availability, according to a fiber deployment report from the Fiber Broadband Association.
The 2022 Fiber Provider Survey was based on research conducted by RVA LLC Market Research & Consulting (RVA). Their researchers found that there are now a total of 68 million fiber broadband passings in the U.S., with strong recent increases of 13% over the past 12 months and 27% over the past two years. The survey also found that 63 million unique homes have now been passed (this figure “excludes homes with two or more fiber passings”). To date, fiber has passed nearly half of primary homes and over 10% of second homes. The annual fiber deployment rate is likely to be even higher over the next five years as BEAD and other broadband funding programs kick in.
In its research, RVA notes that although deployment expectations from individual companies are in constant flux based on many factors, many service providers have announced network builds exceeding the fiber footprint they have built through private funding. Canada is seeing strong fiber deployment as well, with about 66% of homes passed.
“High-quality broadband has become more important to consumers every year. Fiber broadband exceeds all other types of delivery in every single measurement of broadband quality, including speeds, uptime, latency, jitter, and power consumption,” Gary Bolton, Fiber Broadband Association president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “For the consumer this has real-world impacts, like more productivity, better access to health care and education, more entrepreneurism, and the option of more rural living. For society, this means more sustainability and, ultimately, digital equity.”
Mike Render, Founder and CEO of RVA, will present the findings of the 2022 Fiber Provider Survey on Fiber for Breakfast, Wednesday, December 28, 2022, at 10:00am ET. Click here to register for the episode.
About the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA):
The Fiber Broadband Association is the largest and only trade association that represents the complete fiber ecosystem of service providers, manufacturers, industry experts, and deployment specialists dedicated to the advancement of fiber broadband deployment and the pursuit of a world where communications are limitless, advancing quality of life and digital equity anywhere and everywhere. The Fiber Broadband Association helps providers, communities, and policy makers make informed decisions about how, where, and why to build better fiber broadband networks. Since 2001, these companies, organizations, and members have worked with communities and consumers in mind to build the critical infrastructure that provides the economic and societal benefits that only fiber can deliver. The Fiber Broadband Association is part of the Fibre Council Global Alliance, which is a platform of six global FTTH Councils in North America, LATAM, Europe, MEA, APAC, and South Africa. Learn more at fiberbroadband.org.
The Fiber Broadband Association is also helping with the expansion by helping to train installers through its Optical Telecom Installation Certification (OpTIC) Path program.
Connect2 Communications for the Fiber Broadband Association
Separately, Light Reading says that Webpass to play role in Google Fiber’s new expansion efforts. “As we continue to grow our footprint across the country, we’re integrating this [wireless] method for delivering high-speed service in more areas where it makes sense in all our existing cities and in our new expansion areas as well,” Tom Brownlow, senior network operations manager at Google Fiber, and Blake Drager, the head of technology at Google Fiber’s Webpass business, wrote in a post to the company’s website.
Google Fiber recently announced talks were underway with city leaders in five states – Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Idaho – about expanding fiber services to various communities. Cities to make Google Fiber’s new-build list recently include Omaha, Nebraska, Mesa, Arizona and Lakewood, Colorado. Brownlow and Drager didn’t specify which of those expansion markets might include wireless offerings.
Comcast announced in a press release it successfully tested a symmetrical multi-gigabit DOCSIS 4.0 connection on its live network, taking a major step toward “offering 10G-enabled services” in the second half of 2023. In Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered, it connected service at an undisclosed business location using multiple cable modems and a DOCSIS 4.0-enabled 10G node. If you’re wondering what 10G means, the answer is — more than 5G. As we noted in 2019, the cable industry rolled out its marketing term just in time to have something that’s twice as many Gb/sec as 5G wireless has.
DOCSIS 4.0 technology should enable download speeds of up to 10Gbps with 6Gbps uploads, and Comcast said a lab test in January achieved more than 4Gbps speed in both directions.
Earlier this year, Comcast announced it was working on rolling out multi-gig Internet speeds to more than 50 million residences and businesses in the U.S. by the end of 2025. The company planned on deploying 2Gbps speeds to 34 cities by the end of this month and has also given a slight bump to download speed on internet service in many areas.
The advantage of 10G tech is that it should make multi-gig speeds available for both downloads and uploads (currently, Comcast’s gigabit plans include upload speeds of just 200Mbps), just as it is with fiber optic internet connections. However, for anyone considering upgrading, we should note that you will probably need another new cable modem.
Ideally, this will increase speeds for those in places where fiber isn’t available, especially non-metropolitan areas. And in places that have competition, it measures closer against rivals that deliver fiber services, such as Verizon, AT&T, Google, and Frontier Communications, which are already offering some customers symmetrical multi-gigabit connections.
“We started this year with the announcement of our world-first test of 10G modem technology capable of delivering multi-gig speeds to homes and, as of today, 10G is a reality with the potential to transform and evolve the Internet as we know it,” said Elad Nafshi, EVP and Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable. “It’s been an incredible year of progress, and we look forward to continuing to refine and harden our 10G technology as we work to make this service—and all its incredible benefits—available to all customers in the years ahead.”
Separately, TDS Telecom [1.] said its new symmetrical 8Gb/sec (gig) service is already available in more than 75 of its fiber markets and runs $295 per month. While most U.S. operators [2.] are sticking with 2-gig as their top tier product for now, a handful of others have already pushed further into multi-gig territory. AT&T and Ziply Fiber, for instance, both offer residential plans providing up to 5 Gbps. And fewer still have gone beyond that. Lumen Technologies introduced an 8-gig tier for its Quantum Fiber service in August and Google Fiber has announced plans to trot out 5-gig and 8-gig plans in early 2023. Lumen’s service costs $300 per month.
Note 1. TDS Telecom offers internet service across 31 states with the greatest coverage in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Utah.
Note 2. TDS is competing directly against AT&T, Comcast, Consolidated Communications and Lumen in the territory it serves.
While TDS in a press release pitched the 8-gig product as suitable for power users such as gamers and content creators, an operator representative told Fierce Telecom it doesn’t initially expect significant uptake of the plan. Instead, such offerings are tools in a marketing war being waged across the broadband industry.
On TDS’s Q3 2022 earnings call, TDS CFO Michelle Brukwicki stated its 1-gig and 2-gig plans are “important tools that will allow us to defend and win new customers.” She added nearly a quarter of new customers are taking its 1-gig service where it is available and its faster, higher-APRU tiers helped it boost residential broadband revenue in the quarter. However, TDS expects to miss 2022 fiber build target.
Fiber network build-outs are still going strong, even as the pace of those builds slowed a bit in 2022. Our colleague Craig Moffett warns that the fiber future isn’t looking quite as bright due to an emerging set of economic challenges that could reduce the overall rate of return on those build-outs. Rising costs, reflecting labor cost inflation, equipment cost inflation, and higher cost of capital, all point to diminished investment returns for fiber overbuilds. Craig wrote in a note to clients:
Our by-now familiar tally of planned competitive fiber builds for 2022 started the year at to 6M or so homes passed. By early Spring it had climbed to 7M. It currently sits at ~8M. Next year’s number is flirting with 10M. All for an industry that has never built even half that many in a single year. As we approach the end of the year, however, it is clear that the actual number, at least for this year, will fall short. The number is still high, to be sure… but lower.
There does not appear to be a single explanation for the construction shortfall; some operators blame labor supply, some permitting delays. And some, of course, are actually doing just fine. For the industry as a whole, however, notably including AT&T, by far the nation’s largest (fiber) overbuilder, the number will almost certainly end the year meaningfully below plan. Costs appear to be rising, as well. Here again, there is no single explanation. Labor costs are frequently cited, but equipment costs are rising as well. For example, despite construction shortfalls, AT&T’s capital spending show no such shortfall, suggesting higher cost per home passed. Higher cost per home passed, coupled with a higher cost of capital, portend lower returns on invested capital.
If, as we expect, investment returns for fiber overbuilds increasingly prove to be inadequate, the capital markets will eventually withdraw funding. Indeed, this is how all bubbles ultimately pop. There are already signs of growing hesitancy. To be sure, we don’t expect a near-term curtailment; operators’ plans for the next year or two are largely locked in. Our skepticism is instead about longer-term projections that call for as much as 70% of the country to be overbuilt by fiber. We believe those kinds of forecasts are badly overstated.
As recent as its Q3 2022 earnings call, AT&T has reiterated that it’s on track to expand its fiber footprint to more than 30 million locations by 2025. The company deployed fiber to about 2.3 million locations through the third quarter of this year, but appears hard-pressed to meet its guidance to build 3.5 million to 4 million fiber locations per year.
Given that the fourth quarter is typically a slow construction period, AT&T “looks to be well behind its deployment goals,” Moffett wrote. “If the company retains the pace of deployment in Q3, they will end the year 675K homes short of their goal, or an 18% shortfall compared to the midpoint of their target.”
But AT&T isn’t alone. Lumen has also fallen behind its target, as has TDS and altafiber (formerly Cincinnati Bell) and Altice USA. Those on track or ahead of pace include Frontier Communications, Consolidated Communications and Verizon.
The analysts at Wells Fargo recently lowered their fiber buildout forecasts for 2022 and 2023. They cut their 2022 forecast for the US to about 8 million new fiber locations, down from 9 million. For 2023, they expect the industry to build about 10 million locations, cut from a previous expectation of 11 million.
Though overall buildout figures are still relatively high, some operators recently have blamed a blend of reasons for the recent slowdown in pace, including a challenging labor supply, permitting delays and rising costs for capital and equipment.
“Labor costs are frequently cited, but equipment costs are rising as well,” Moffett noted. “For example, despite construction shortfalls, AT&T’s capital spending show no such shortfall, suggesting higher cost per home passed.”
And, like the pace of buildouts, the cost situation is clearly not the same for all operators. While Consolidated is seeing the cost per home passed rising to a range of $600 to $650 (up from $550 to $600), Frontier expects its costs to remain at the expected range of $900 to $1,000.
But more generally, Moffett believes the returns on those investments “will only weaken further as buildouts are necessarily pushed out to less attractive, lower density, markets.”
One takeaway from that, Craig warns, is that fiber overbuilding is poised not only to generate lower returns that originally hoped, but that there also will be upward, not downward, pressure on broadband prices.
With respect to the pace of fiber build-outs, there’s heavy demand for labor for today’s overbuilding plans, and it will only get heavier as the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program gets started.
Remedies are out there, with Moffett pointing to the Fiber Broadband Association’s rollout of its OpTICs Path fiber technician training program earlier this year as one example. ATX Networks, a network tech supplier, is contributing with the recent launch of a Field Personnel Replenishment Program.
But they might not completely bridge the gap. “These efforts may help expand capacity, but they are unlikely to fully meet demand, and they are almost certainly not going to forestall near-term labor cost inflation, in our view,” Moffett wrote.
With rising equipment costs and the cost of capital also factoring in, Moffett views a 20% rise in fiber deployment (for both passing and connecting homes) a “reasonable range” in the coming two to three years.
Moffett wonders if network operators will be forced to raise prices to help restore returns to the levels anticipated when fiber buildout plans were first conceived. While it’s unclear if competitive dynamics will allow for that, “it does appear to us that expectations of falling ARPU [average revenue per user] are misplaced,” Craig wrote.
But the mix of higher cost of capital and deployment for fiber projects, paired with deployment in lower density markets or those with more buried infrastructure, stand to reduce the value of such fiber projects further.
“Capital markets will sniff out this dynamic long before the companies themselves do, and they will withdraw capital. This is, of course, how bubbles are popped,” Moffett warned.
The MoffettNathanson’s report also provided an update on broadband subscriber metrics. US cable turned in a modest gain of 38,000 broadband subs in Q3 2022, an improvement from cable’s first-ever negative result in Q2. Cable saw broadband subscriber growth of 1.2% in Q3, down from +4.4% in the year-ago quarter. U.S. telcos saw broadband subscriber growth fall to -0.5% in Q3, versus +.06% in the year-ago quarter.
Meanwhile, fixed wireless additions set a new record thanks to continued growth at both Verizon and T-Mobile. However, T-Mobile’s 5G Home business posted 578,000 FWA subscriber adds in Q3, up just 3.2% from the prior quarter.