Fibre to the Home: A Clear Path to the Gigabit Frontier

Reaching broadband speeds of one gigabit per second is the new defining frontier of high-speed Internet. The demand in instantaneous connectivity has skyrocketed in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. This is due, among other things, to the burgeoning Internet of Things, the multiplication of television and video platforms and the overall booming number of large files being transferred across the cyberspace in both business and personal contexts. With fibre optic cable offering future-proof speeds and a now much more affordable implementation, bringing fibre directly to the home is proving itself to be a solid strategy for major telecommunications companies.

More relevant than ever

Fibre to the Home (FTTH), also known as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is the use of optical fibre to directly connect a home or business from a central fibre hub in order to enable access to high-speed Internet. By connecting the entirety of the network with optical fibre as opposed to using copper coaxial cable, DSL or twisted pair conductors to ensure the contact between the home and the fibre hub, FTTH is a bona fide method of bringing gigabit speeds to individual subscribers. According to even the most conservative estimates, optical fibre has 10 times the bandwidth capacity of copper.

Furthermore, methods such as directional boring have made creating FTTH networks in urban areas more feasible and cost effective than ever. This technique uses specialized equipment to bore down through the ground surface and open up a tunnel to enable conduit placement in a way that is much less invasive to the terrain than traditional trench methods. In other cases, providers with existing aerial networks can also optimize this infrastructure to install fibre cable at a lower cost.

A long-term investment

Notwithstanding these methods, there is no doubt that designing and installing a fibre network remains more expensive than simply upgrading existing cable networks to keep up with today’s demands in connectivity. FTTH requires extensive preparation: an important investment is needed from the drawing board to conceptualize detailed plans and gather a clear assessment of needs taking any existing infrastructure in consideration. Rural and urban areas each have their own specificities, but in both cases one must have an in-depth overview of all roads, poles, houses, terrain and waterways, both natural and man-made. However, if more cost-effective options exist to upgrade cable networks, why even bother with a solution as time-consuming as bringing optical fibre directly to subscriber’s homes?

Simply put, FTTH’s biggest selling point is its sustainability. Global Internet traffic is estimated to multiply by 50 within 10 years, with the likely rise of hungrily connected technologies like 3D holographic HD television and games estimated to require up to 30 gigabytes per second. While current technologies are continuously updated to keep up with the demand, they are nowhere near ready to take on these speeds. FTTH is meant to sustain this type of hyper-connectivity for a long time to come. Companies who are moving to update their networks with Fibre to the Home are securing a technology that is estimated to remain at the head of its class for 30 to 40 years to come. Furthermore, making optic-based systems the standard in home and small business connectivity and thus enabling enhanced speeds could very well contribute to shaping new products and services. Since technology advances as an synergistic ecosystem, the innovative repercussions of advanced connectivity as a creative tool and technical enabler are unforeseeable.

A technology firmly on the rise

For now, North America is lagging behind in its implementation of Fibre to the Home. The world leader, South Korea, has 31% of its homes connected via fibre. The 2016 FTTH Council Global Ranking puts the United Stated at around 12% household penetration rate and Canada at 5%. However, as Canada only broke the 1% mark in 2011, it is clear that the country is well on its way to broadened FTTH development.

According to analysts, FTTH deployment is not an investment that a major telecommunications company can afford to avoid. Some providers have started a large-scale implementation of Fibre to the Home for their users, one city at a time. This process has been ongoing for around 5 years and is steadily picking up speed. Big cities are conscious of the benefits FTTH can have on a local economy and are lobbying to be next in line. In a world where high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, areas with cutting edge connectivity have the advantage when trying to attract businesses. A metropolis like Montreal, with proven expertise in fields such as gaming and aerospace engineering, will rely heavily on such an asset.