LTE will cannibalize fiber, promises eMobile

John C. Tanner
09 Sep 2009

Japanese cellco eMobile says the next evolution of ADSL will be LTE, not FTTH, but rivals and other regional cellcos aren’t quite so convinced.

Eric Gan, president and COO of eMobile, said Tuesday that his company sees mobile broadband “as a continuation of ADSL, not FTTH”, and is building its LTE strategy on that premise.

eMobile, which is the mobile arm of broadband operator eAccess, has built a base of 1.8 million subscribers over the last couple of years selling mostly HSPA data-card services rather than voice-centric mobile. The cellco launched HSPA+ services in July, and intends to launch commercial LTE services in September 2010.

Gan said in a keynote speech at an LTE forum in Hong Kong that mobile broadband was already a suitable substitute for ADSL services, 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.”

But Takehiro Nakamura, director at rival cellco NTT DoCoMo and RAN chairman for the 3GPP, was dismissive of the idea.

“Optical fiber is already rather widely deployed in Japan, and most people use it and like it,” he said during a panel on LTE strategy.

However, while LTE might not hold a candle to fiber, he added, it could certainly compete with ADSL – provided the service was carefully targeted.

“If you target new broadband customers, then we can provide a good service on mobile with femtocells,” he said.

Techi Juan, vice president of new technology at Taiwan Mobile, noted that HSPA is already stealing DSL customers, and that while LTE may not match fiber in terms or speeds, it had the advantage of mobility.

Chan Kin Hung, head of personal solutions and advanced multimedia services at StarHub – which offers both HSPA and cable modem broadband – said fixed-mobile broadband substitution in Singapore depended on customer needs.

“Looking ahead, Singapore will be seeing fiber connections up to 1 Gbps, and it’s hard to compete with that, unless the question is whether a particular customer needs 1 Gbps,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of fixed-line customers switching to mobile broadband.”

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