Fiber to the X: One size does not fit all

If today's telco could build its last mile network from scratch today, no doubt it would have been all fiber, but in reality copper still dominates. Fiber for all of its wonder is still the new kid on the last mile block.

And while the price of network equipment (Optical Line Terminals and Optical Network Terminals) and even fiber have come down, no two service provider's Fiber to the X strategies are the same.

In reality, what exists is a wide mix of approaches amongst larger and even smaller independent service providers. This mix of deployment scenarios could mean deploying some hybrid copper/fiber network in Brownfield markets and then FTTP in new Greenfield developments. Of course, the Greenfield market opportunities have taken a hit in the past year as the economy has slowed the building of new homes in the U.S.

Of course, there's the ultimate be all end all of last mile fiber deployments of Fiber to the Premises (FTTP). According to new statistics from the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, the RVA Market Research found continued robust growth in the number of homes passed by FTTH networks, which rose to 17.2 million from 13.8 million a year ago.

In the U.S. FTTX market, the headlines are dominated by a three-horse race between AT&T, Qwest and Verizon. However, their approaches vary quite widely. On the FTTH front, Verizon has been the most aggressive with an all fiber approach yet with video it's taking a hybrid RF/IP approach. On the other hand, Qwest and AT&T are mainly leveraging a FTTN approach in existing markets and FTTP in new Greenfield builds.

Following the large incumbent carriers' lead, a growing number of aggressive independent telcos such as Middleburgh Telephone, nSight Telservices and EATEL are also pursuing their own Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) drive.

Outside of Verizon and the aggressive independents, most U.S. and even international traditional service providers, including even smaller FTTP pioneers SureWest, are looking for ways to leverage their existing copper with both ADSL2+ and VDSL2 in a Fiber to the Node/Curb configuration. Then, other carriers such as GTA TeleGuam, which operates in a region where typhoons are a regular occurrence not only buries its fiber, but will keep a customer's copper link intact to maintain regular phone service.

What all of these scenarios point to is a common fact: Fiber to the X is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but one where the service providers are asking for a tailored suit that fits their own plan for success.

In this new feature, I examined the Fiber to the X scenarios of five diverse service providers. This list includes three major incumbents, a small independent and a recently privatized telco.

Take a look and let us know what you think.