LTE is not the new FTTH - yet

John C. Tanner
23 Nov 2009

One of the more notable moments at LTE Asia happened during the opening keynotes when Eric Gan, president and chief operating officer at Japanese cellco eMobile, said that he viewed LTE not only as a data play, but also as a viable substitute for FTTH.

In fact, Gan described mobile broadband "as a continuation of ADSL, not FTTH", and that LTE would allow eMobile to compete even against Japan's growing FTTH market.

"We have performed tests with LTE, and the speeds are getting closer to fiber speeds," he said. "That's why we believe LTE will cannibalize the fiber market."

That touched off some discussions on and offstage as to whether eMobile was putting a little more faith in LTE's capabilities than even the most optimistic expectations of the technology warrant.

While most people I talked to at the show agreed that LTE could certainly make ADSL obsolete and even serve as a viable replacement (at least in service areas where VDSL2 isn't a realistic option, or where copper doesn't exist at all), they were much more skeptical of the idea that LTE could eat fiber's lunch, if only because fiber in Japan was simply too widely deployed and too fast for LTE to realistically compete with it.

And while one vendor did put up a slide claiming that HSPA/LTE will account for 80% of the global broadband market by 2014, an argument could be made that a huge percentage of those will either be ex-DSL users and/or people where fiber (or indeed broadband of any flavor) isn't yet available and won't be for another ten years, if ever.

So it seems fair to say that in terms of throughput speeds, LTE won't fare well as a fixed-broadband substitute where FTTH is already in place - especially if FTTH providers are using it to deliver very heavy video services like, say, 3D high-def television.

LTE Advanced, on the other hand, could be a very different story.

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