Is VDSL2 Vectoring Destroying the FTTH Business Case?

This was the question posed on a recent Linked-In survey and it made me stop to think about the direction of the market.

Alot has been written about the benefits of VDSL2 Vectoring ( I myself have written extensively about this topic) – which include the ability to leverage the existing copper plant to drive significantly higher speeds (up to 100Mbps).

For many operators, VDSL2 Vectoring, provides an economic alternative to Fiber-to-the-Home – meaning they are able to offer their customers faster speeds in a much shorter timeframe and at a much lower cost.

No doubt – there are many critics of this upgrade path.  Many who view it as a ”cop-out” by the incumbent operator; stating they are wasting their money when it could be spent on FTTH.

But I would ask this – Is it better to provide 75-100Mbps to 80-90 percent of the population or 1Gbps to 10-20 percent of the population?  Especially when that 10-20 percent is already enjoying faster speeds than the rest.

When broadbandtrends surveyed operators regarding their plans to deploy VDSL2 Vectoring we asked what were their Top 3 key drivers for deploying this technology. The overwhelming driver – cited by 94 percent of respondents –  was faster speeds.

VDSL2Vectoring_Drivers

As noted, there were a number of operators that stated VDSL2 Vectoring “delayed” the need for FTTH – but in no response was this cited as the #1 driver.  In fact, in most instances, it was ranked #3.  (For further information on this survey, please visit http://www.broadbandtrends.com/2013_reports).

Deutsche Telekom which has stated it would invest EUR 6 billion for broadband roll-out  in Germany using FTTC + VDSL2 vectoring has in fact slowed its deployment of FTTH, stating that will only deploy in markets where it is profitable.  Currently, Telekom requires at least 10 percent of households to commit to the service before they will deploy the network.

However, Telekom was clear to emphasize that they are not abandoning FTTH and in fact believe that 50 percent of the CAPEX used for the FTTC + Vectoring will be applicable to FTTH networks in the future with FTTH being the long-term target for the wireline network.

In fact, I have never had a single discussion with a fixed line operator in any region that concluded with a decision to abandon FTTH in favor of VDSL2 Vectoring.  Delay is perhaps the key word.

With over 400 million DSL lines (and growing) – it simply makes economic sense for most operators to continue to leverage this infrastructure as technology allows.  And with the competitive threat that mobile broadband potentially brings – time to market is critical.

I have stated this conclusion before, but it bears repeating:

VDSL2 Vectoring is not the end-game.  But it offers operators  a solution that can address the immediate time-to-market, competitive and regulatory challenges; while allowing operators to prepare their networks for the eventual migration to FTTH.

Is VDSL2 Vectoring destroying the business case for FTTH?  I think not.  And if it is, the business case was not that solid to begin with.

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