Steve Rasmussen Issue: EMEA 2011
Article no.: 6
Topic: The future is fibre
Author: Steve Rasmussen
Title: Director
Organisation: Siptel
PDF size: 289KB

About author

Steve Rasmussen founded Siptel in 2003, and has been the Managing Director (as well as Sales and Marketing Director) for the past seven years. He led the company to win SME and enterprise business and many blue chip clients. Siptel has built a portfolio of high profile clients across Europe, with the majority of clients awarding repeat business and staying with Siptel for ongoing IT and communication needs.

With 20+ year industry experience, Mr Rasmussen has successfully operated in technical sales and engineering positions in large corporations, and through his responsibilities as Account Director at Avaya, in strategic, corporate and enterprise roles.

Some of Mr Rasmussen’s Awards/Achievements to date include:
BESMA 2011; Sales Professional of the Year; National Sales Awards 2010 supported by The Daily Telegraph – Technology Implementation Project of the Year; IT Europa Awards 2010 – Unified Communications & Vertical Market (Healthcare); MIoD, FInstSMM, CIM, ISO 9001 – 2010; Investors in People – 2010; Comms Network Awards 2009 – Enterprise Unified Communications Solution, Avaya Platinum Enterprise Business Partner Status 2009; Comms Business Awards 2007 – Reseller of the Year; Channel Network Awards 2005 – IT Solution of the Year and Carbon Conscious with Carbon Managers.

Article abstract

Bringing fibre to the premises is crucial to the delivery of advanced business applications. It is not enough to provide fibre optic in the network if the ‘Last Mile’ is still the traditional copper cable. Businesses rely progressively on digital communications, video conferencing and remote working. SME in particular depend on the Internet, not only for email but also on cloud-based storage and hosted applications. Some countries (Korea, Qatar) are now ahead of Europe in terms of fibre reaching the premises and the UK is lagging behind other countries in Europe. Investment is required to bring fibre to the premises of businesses (rather than the slower fibre-to-the-cabinet), in order to ensure economic success.

Full Article

High-speed fibre optic cables, which are often used as the primary link between the telecommunications network and the customer, are not enough to deliver a super-fast Internet connection. The ability to bring fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) will play a vital role in bringing next-generation business-critical applications, like web-based video, to businesses, enabling them to compete with global competitors already reaping the benefits of super-fast Internet.

Despite the latest technological developments in digital communications, most homes and businesses in the UK and much of Europe still have a copper telephone line that connects them to a telecommunications network. This technology has been working reasonably well for over a century now (yes, some people and businesses are still relying on technology that old). However, copper has a number of important limitations, not only in terms of the length of wire that can be run from the nearest switch, but also with regard to the amount of bandwidth that can be provided via this method.

Boosting performance for the Last Mile

Even though high-speed fibre optic cables are often used to provide the primary link to the network, this “last mile” between the network and the customer’s premises also has a vital role to play. Bringing super-fast broadband to a particular home, office or any other building is largely dependent on this last mile connection. By taking the fibre optic cable all the way to a company’s actual office – also known as bringing fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) – providers will be able to eliminate the interference and instability associated with copper cables.

As a result, many businesses are now hoping to use these fibre optic cables – basically a high-tech bundle of hair-thin glass strands – to transmit voice, data and video signals via laser-generated pulses of light. By transmitting data in this way, it will be possible to achieve Internet speeds that far exceed what is possible with copper.

In addition, FTTP will provide a much more reliable service overall, as it is less likely to suffer any disruption during bad weather, as well as being easier to maintain. In fact, service providers can monitor the performance of the network very easily, and make repairs even before any customers notice a problem.

Even more important, by laying optical fibre from a central location (known as a switch) to a termination point (whether a home or a business), FTTP could potentially deliver broadband at speeds of up to 100Mbps and greater, which is nearly 20 times the average broadband speed in most European countries.

To illustrate what this boost in speed would mean consider this: a 100Mbps connection would make it possible to download an entire album in five seconds, a television show in 30 seconds, and a high-definition movie in just seven minutes. It’s still early days, but a small percentage of Internet users in Europe have already proven that this kind of speed is indeed possible.

Although replacing copper infrastructures with fibre for every business in Europe would be an expensive proposition, the rewards could be immense. FTTP enables much more than just doing the same things faster. It will help to support new ways of sending and receiving information via the Internet. In particular, FTTP has enormous potential for businesses in key areas like SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), Unified Communication (UC) for voice, data, and video, Web 2.0 and Cloud based hosted solutions – areas that businesses are relying on to promote products and services online to a global customer base.

FTTP for small-to-medium businesses (SMEs)

For any business that mainly uses the Internet for email and online news sites, the bandwidth that’s being provided at the moment might be fast enough – for now, at least. However, the world is moving towards higher bandwidth applications all the time. According to figures released earlier this year, global IP traffic has already increased eight fold over the past five years, and will increase four fold over the next five years. By replacing copper wiring with fibre optic cable, businesses will be in a much stronger position to keep up with this changing Internet landscape, allowing smaller companies to compete on a level playing field with their corporate rivals.

For SMEs in particular, FTTP will provide more robust Voice over IP (VoIP) services and associated features, as well as massive bandwidth for a wide variety of data and video applications. It will also pave the way for new broadband products and services that are simply not possible with today’s communications infrastructure. For example, a growing number of companies are already offering “software as service”, which means that businesses can subscribe to applications via the Internet rather than installing them on their own servers. Hosting applications is now available for word processing, email, remote backup, and a wide array of other business services.

As these ‘cloud-based’ applications continue to expand and develop even further, SMEs are going to require much greater bandwidth than what is available right now. At the moment, fibre is the only transmission medium that will be able to satisfy these future demands.

In addition to super-fast broadband Internet, FTTP will provide SMEs with the chance to develop highly interactive online content for their customers, as well as audio/video on demand. SMEs will also be much better placed to share information and communicate with their home and remote workers via this new super-fast network.

FTTP for web-based video or video over IP

With so much potential on offer, FTTP is expected to provide a “blank canvas” for technology innovators, which may prompt them to create FTTP-based solutions that will totally revolutionise the way in which businesses use the Internet – especially in the area of web-based video, also known as Video over IP.

According to Cisco’s 2011 Visual Networking Index, it would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will be transmitted across global IP networks during 2014. By the time we reach 2015, it would take more than five years to watch the amount of video being transmitted via global IP networks every second. In fact, by then it is estimated that 1 million minutes of video content will cross the network every second of every day.

Clearly, web-based video is set to grow exponentially. According to the same report, business video conferencing is expected to grow six fold by 2015. Already, business video-conferencing traffic is growing much faster than overall business IP traffic, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41 per cent.

Perhaps these figures are not so surprising. After all, companies all over the world have begun to adopt tools like Skype/Webex web conferencing for regular meetings with their remote workforce, since applications like these can combine the power of video conferencing with the convenience of the web. By using FTTP to deliver super-fast video over IP, companies can use detailed visuals, delivered over the web, to get everyone up to speed very quickly. This approach can also be very useful for brainstorming, since a company’s most creative employees may also be based in different locations.

As FTTP reaches more businesses, the technology could even be used to present sales pitches. Sales people could simply prepare an online sales presentation and then link up with potential customers all across the globe, in real time, via an online video link. Meetings with shareholders and other senior management could be tackled the same way, as FTTP will make it possible to host video conference calls online, add graphics (including charts and graphs) to the presentation, and even field required questions via an interactive Q & A session.

The UK needs to stay competitive with EMEA

According to some surveys, the UK is now ranked 33rd in the world when it comes to broadband speed, with an average that is nearly five times slower than South Korea.
At the moment, the country with the largest number of FTTP connections is Lithuania, with 18 per cent penetration. Sweden, Norway and Slovenia are above ten per cent.

However, despite of the UK government’s spending cuts, broadband Internet actually looks set to receive some investment, as outlined by the government’s plans for greater access to super-fast broadband by 2015. The government has already earmarked £530m for the scheme, with some of this money coming from funds given to the BBC to pay for the switch to digital TV.

Qatar has also revealed plans to invest US$550m to accelerate its own plans for FTTP, so that the network will reach at least 95 per cent of households and businesses over the next five years. Broadband use in Qatar rose from 41 per cent of households in 2008 to 70 per cent in 2010.

Recently, the chief executives from Alcatel-Lucent, Vivendi and Deutsche Telekom have expressed their support for better broadband access, after meeting with the European Union’s digital agenda commissioner to present a raft of proposals aimed at boosting investment in Europe’s ultra-fast broadband network.

The EU’s digital agenda commissioner has long stressed the importance of the role that Europe’s telecommunications groups will play in rolling out a superfast broadband network across the continent, especially as the Internet economy is expected to grow to EUR800 billion, or 5.8 per cent of Europe’s gross domestic product by 2014, according to the EU Commission. As such, the EU Commission wants broadband connections of 30 megabits a second to be available to all 500 million EU residents by 2020.

Despite these exciting developments across EMEA, there is still a way to go for the UK. A recent study by the regulator Ofcom revealed that less than one per cent of UK homes currently have a super-fast broadband connection, (i.e. at least 24Mbps). Likewise, although the government’s plans will extend fibre connections to 66 per cent of the UK, only a quarter of this would be FTTP, according to a report published by the BBC. The rest would follow the slower Fibre-To-The-Cabinet (FTTC) model, similar to the government’s “digital hub” plans, which does not guarantee a super-fast fibre connection all the way to a person’s home or business.

Businesses that want to stay one step ahead of the competition need to start asking questions and preparing for FTTP now, as it won’t be long before these all-fibre networks will be an essential requirement for accessing the next generation of business-critical applications.