Harnessing LTE and FTTH hand in hand

An Junfeng
10 Jul 2014

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Along with the large-scale commercial deployment of LTE, fixed broadband faces great challenges. First of all, there is a trade-off in infrastructure investment – the early stage of LTE deployment requires a lot of investment for wider coverage, which means a huge reduction in fiber to the home (FTTH) investment.

Secondly, following user development of LTE, the number of fixed broadband subscribers will be reduced as users shift to more mobile broadband usage. Thirdly, FTTH operators will be forced to lower service prices to cope with the impact of LTE.

In fact, some say that LTE will replace fixed broadband. LTE and FTTH collaboration appears to be a false proposition as it actually reflects the rethinking of the direction of broadband access development in the industry.

As its name suggests, LTE actually has no fundamental innovation in itself. It does not have many advantages compared to the present stage of 3G technology. In China, LTE deployment is mainly driven by government policy rather than new business requirements.

LTE and FTTH development both have some difficulties to overcome at present stage. LTE deployment has to settle site and base station resource scarcity, radiation and deep coverage problems.

For its part, FTTH also faces two problems that are difficult to overcome. One is availability of fiber. For some areas, it is just impossible to lay fiber to the user’s home. Another problem is low household penetration rate.

So far, LTE or FTTH alone can’t meet the demands of all scenarios. There is a complementary relationship between LTE and FTTH in access speed, application scenario, business model, and services. Therefore, they should be developed in coordination with each other.

The two technologies can complement each other in coverage, from indoor usage to outdoor usage. The bandwidth advantages of fixed broadband and ease of management, along with the convenience in charging in mobile broadband, can also be combined to create benefits.

In terms of complementing user groups, fixed broadband caters to users demanding bandwidth of 10 Mbps and beyond. For its part, mobile broadband focus on the users with bandwidth needs under 2 Mbps.

Currently, the collaboration between LTE and FTTH is limited to mobile backhaul. Collaboration at the business, account and network level still needs more positive exploration and practice in the future.

It’s unwise to simply enlarge the pipe. The carrier should think more about how to achieve better ROI with both LTE and FTTH.

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