Ever-growing demand for speed and bandwidth
Since the Internet was born in the 1990s, the need for increasingly fast connections has never flagged. This ongoing trend has held steady and is expected to continue to do so for some time to come. Video remains central to consumer requirements: 4K today, and the first 8K TVs are being sold in Europe. Tomorrow, 16K and virtual reality will be the driving forces behind the unceasing demand for higher speed services.
In Europe, data traffic on fixed networks will increase by close to three times between 2016 and 2021, going from 33 to 89 Gb of traffic a month, per customer (source: Cisco). Access technologies will need to evolve to keep pace with this increase.
Accelerating FTTx rollouts
FTTH/B technology deployments are booming. In Western Europe, 54 million households passed for FTTH/B in 2017 will grow to 99 million in 2021, according to IDATE DigiWorld. In addition to purely fibre solutions such as FTTH, other technologies are also been deployed and tested. G.Fast and XG-Fast make it possible to rapidly increase speeds on legacy networks. These new technologies enable operators with an existing network to perform quick and cost-effective rollouts. In Switzerland and the UK, telcos are deploying G.Fast in the last mile of their legacy copper networks, which is allowing them to provide Gigabit speed connections. Cheaper than FTTH/B, G.Fast is also faster to deploy.
5G poised to make a splash
The new 5G mobile standard will also make it possible to deliver Gigabit speed connections. Destined to be used in particular local situations, this wireless technology should provide end users with a connection of close to fibre quality, without having to deploy fixed infrastructure to the customer premises.
The appeal of the 5G business model for providing fixed access may vary considerably from market to market. The need to deploy a very large number of antennae would make fixed 5G rollouts a costly endeavour in densely populated areas. Far more appealing in more sparsely populated regions, fixed 5G will be competing with subsidised fixed wireline technologies and infrastructure-sharing schemes between operators.