AirPON is a cost-effective solution to the FTTH challenge

AirPON FTTH Huawei

AirPON, a technique developed by Huawei in conjunction with some key operator partners is now a proven solution to the challenges of delivering fiber to the home (FTTH). It fits within the overall trend towards Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) and by using existing assets creates an innovative, cost-effective solution for mobile operators, particularly across the Asia Pacific region.

Judy Peng

We talked to Judy Peng, Vice President of Carrier Business Group – Asia Pacific Region, Huawei, on this at Huawei AirPON Commercial Release Conference yesterday.

The opportunity is created by the relatively low penetration of fixed broadband and the higher penetration of mobile in the region. To illustrate the value of FMC, a report from consultancy OVUM shows fixed broadband penetration at 61% worldwide, but just 16% in Asia Pacific. Conversely, mobile penetration in Asia Pacific is 120% as opposed to 103% worldwide, and mobile broadband stands at 104% in AsiaPacific against 90% worldwide.

As an example of leveraging this gap, AIS in Thailand, together with Huawei, began its Fiber BroadBand (FBB) and FMC strategy in 2015 and by the end of 2019 had achieved over 1 million subscribers, 86% of them converged mobile users.

There are significant challenges delivering FTTH, which makes AirPON such an innovative solution. In some markets, such as Hong Kong, there are ‘Rights of Way’ issues, effectively preventing customers in ‘town houses’ enjoying a gigabit experience. Now, with the technique developed by Huawei and its partners, it is possible to circumvent the challenges of walls stopping signals and, instead delivers a solution in a fast and efficient way.

Research has also demonstrated that churn can be reduced significantly by adopting an FMC path as part of the goal of a FTTH strategy. In the case of one mobile operator, churn stood at around 3.6%, and this dropped to 1.3% with FMC and 1%, if you add video to the mix. ARPU is improved by an eye-catching 40%.

In other, rural, territories, the cost of delivering FTTH is at least double that of cities. The beauty of the AirPON solution is that it leverages existing mobile towers to deliver fast and accurate FTTH. For instance, Globe in the Philippines has over 7,000 mobile sites. According to the partners’ calculations, building FTTH from a CO requires an average of 7 km feed cable, but only 2 km from mobile sites for the ‘last mile’.

The opportunities of delivering FTTH via FMC cannot be ignored, even at a time when operators are facing enormous challenges with their digital transformation projects. But operators are perfectly placed to take advantage of this, without years of expensive development.

Data from OVUM and customer analysis shows that the addressable market is about 66 million customers across the region, 9.4 million in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam alone.

When faced with the very real challenge of rolling out FTTH across the region, operators should seriously consider taking to the AirPON.

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