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FTTP roll-out almost justifiable in economic terms, say analysts

The operational savings of deploying FTTP broadband are soon to overtake the capex costs associated with deployment, says Point Topic

There are now more fibre broadband subscribers worldwide than copper, and the economics of starting to deploy full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband services are beginning to look far more attractive for operators, according to statistics released by broadband analysts at Point Topic.

Copper subscribers peaked at just over 350 million worldwide in 2013, and have since fallen back to just fewer than 280 million, with fibre going from approximately 125 million subscribers in 2013 to 285 million today.

This growth has been heavily influenced by the national roll-out in China, and will start to slow in the coming quarters as the national upgrade programme begins to approach the last few million premises, meaning the global picture in future will be much steadier.

Other access technologies – notably cable – are also growing but more steadily, said Point Topic. Satellite and local fixed wireless access systems were also doing “relatively well”.

"2015 will be the year of peak global fibre subscriber growth but with plenty of headroom left in a large number of local markets," said Point Topic CEO Oliver Johnson.

The analysts revealed that China and the US continued to lead the fibre adoption race, but more global markets were switching to fibre in the local loop, usually fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) with a copper termination, such as that controversially advocated by BT for the UK’s national roll-out.

However, time may be running out for the FTTC supporters. Point Topic conceded that FTTP had struggled to make a business case in many instances, but said that a tipping point was fast approaching.

Its analysts predicted that as the savings in operational expenditure approach the capital expenditure associated with deployment, and demand for bandwidth shows no signs of letting up, it will become far easier to justify the costs and far harder for operators to justify sweating their copper networks for much longer.

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