China now has 155 million kilometers of laid fiber, a 13-times increase from 11 million in 2003. That represents 30% annual growth and accounts for 60% of the world total.
The country has 40 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) subscribers, which account for close to 50% of the global total of 90 million. By the end of next year, FTTH is expected to pass 200 million homes and subs will jump to 65 million.
To put those numbers in perspective, Indonesia’s government has set a fiber target of 15 million homes passed by 2014 (it hit 8.2 million in 2013).
Here in Singapore, according to the IDA, fiber now reaches 1.48 million homes and take-up of FTTH is nearly 45% of households.
Based on these numbers and the frenzy of plans for national broadband networks, many may be tempted to think fiber is taking off everywhere. But it certainly hasn’t and growth has actually slowed.
Ovum principle analyst Julie Kunstler expects the FTTH Council’s goal of hitting 500 million FTTH subs by 2020 to fall short by 190 million - that’s a huge gap.
So what’s holding it back? There are many reasons. LTE has been slowing the growth of FTTH as low-end subs are likely to shift to the wireless option. China’s government had to trim its FTTH target next year because the rapid rollout of LTE in China has impacted fiber uptake.
Wei Leping, China Telecom’s chairman of its technology steering committee, says FTTH costs have to be reduced to be competitive compared to LTE.
Wei, citing results of an in-depth study, says the cost per subscriber for LTE increases as the speed increases but the cost of FTTH is almost flat across a wide range of speeds. He said LTE is most cost-effective up to 2-4 Mbps. As a result, FTTH needs to be focused on 20-Mbps or above applications and LTE should be focused on 10-Mbps or below.