It could cost up to £29bn to provide fibre-based broadband to the whole of the UK

We just got a new report analyzing deployment costs for three different types of fibre-based infrastructure and technology that can be used to deliver the next generation of broadband services in the UK.

Extremely interesting, I have to say. The report analyses the results of a cost model that is based on a transparent approach that has been agreed by the members of the BSG Executive. For each technology option, we have explored a base case scenario, and also a number of possible variations from that scenario, including different assumptions for the rate of take-up of services and access to existing infrastructure.

In the base case, only existing BT infrastructure is assumed to be available for re-use. We have also quantified the potential cost savings that could be realised if the duct networks owned by Virgin Media and utilities (e.g. sewers) were available for re-use for next-generation broadband infrastructure.

While it is possible to estimate the deployment costs with relative confidence, the lack of data on the operating costs of next-generation networks means that the operating costs are more difficult to quantify. For this reason we have only provided an indicative illustration of the potential operational cost savings. The revenue potential of next-generation broadband services has not been quantified as it is subject to much greater uncertainty, and is outside the scope of this work.

I guess the objective of this report is to provide a key quantitative input into the independent review of next-generation broadband infrastructure and services. The report is therefore intended to be used to inform the debate surrounding various next-generation broadband issues.

The cost model considers three different technological options for the provision of next-generation broadband services:

1) FTTC/VDSL Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) using very high bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL) involves laying fibre-optic cables to street cabinets. Such cabinets are typically within a few hundred metres of the customer premises. Active equipment is then deployed in the street cabinet that connects to the customer premises using existing copper cables. Depending upon the length of the final copper line, download speeds of 30-100Mbit/s can be expected.

2) FTTH/GPON Fibre to the home (FTTH) using a Gigabit passive optical network (GPON)  involves laying fibre-optic cables directly to the customer premises. Each fibre is theoretically capable of providing up to 2.5Gbit/s of download bandwidth to the customer premises. However, this bandwidth is typically FTTH/PTP Fibre to the home can also be deployed using point-to-point (PTP) fibre connections. By using this technology each customer premises has a dedicated fibre that using current technology is capable of supporting symmetric connections of up to 1Gbit/s.
The first two of these technologies (FTTC/VDSL and FTTH/GPON) form the basis of the recently announced next-generation broadband deployment from BT9, which is likely to be heavily weighted towards FTTC/VDSL deployments.

FTTH has been considered in two distinct variations with different characteristics: FTTH/PTP offers greater service flexibility than FTTH/GPON and is more suitable for infrastructure-based competition, but deployment costs are higher.

The main conclusions show that the costs of deploying FTTH are of the order of five times the costs of deploying FTTC, and that the costs of deploying FTTH/PTP are around 15% higher than for FTTH/GPON. In a market where the business case for any of the technologies is not clear cut, and the availability of funds for investment is uncertain, FTTC/VDSL is likely to be the main technology in the medium term. This is consistent with the strategy announced by BT on 15 July 2008.

For each of the three technologies, the deployment costs remain relatively constant across all urban areas. For FTTC, the urban AFTTC areas cover 58% of the population, and in the case of
FTTH/GPON and FTTH/PTP the urban AFTTH areas cover 68% of the population. The relatively constant costs for a large proportion of the population suggest that if the business case is attractive for one of the technologies it may well be attractive for all of the urban AFTTC/AFTTH areas.

A number of sensitivities have been considered in the modelling work, some of which have a very large impact upon the costs. However, we believe that the base case represents a reasonable view of the costs of deploying the three different technologies; the sensitivity tests provide guidance on the magnitude of potential cost savings that could be achieved.

Case you are interested in additional info, just let me know.

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