FTTH Council Europe Promoting Fiber to the Home in Portugal and Beyond

Attendance at this year's Fiber to the Home (FTTH) conference in Lisbon, Portugal reflects the growing interest in the technology. "We have over 2,500 participants this year, with many on-site registrations," said Karel Helson, President of the Fiber To The Home Council Europe, or more than 300 more than last year in this our 7th council session."

The title of this year's conference is "Taking Your Life To New Horizons," and Helson built on that theme to talk about why the council meeting is being held in Lisbon, as well as what the impact means for European citizens.

"Why Portugal?" asked Helson rhetorically, proceeding to answer with two reasons.

"Lisbon is a great place with a fantastic culture, historically very good at making maps and exploring new opportunities," said Helson. "That is the first reason, but leads to the second reason, which is the opportunity of very-high speed broadband in Portugal. The Council's intent is to host events in locations that show increased adoption of broadband via fiber to the home. With the support of the government, Portugal has massively increased the number of households using fiber as well as increasing the availability of potential fiber drops."

Helson finished his remarks by saying that the Council is making a marked shift to addressing services rather than just addressing infrastructure.

"Consumers don't understand megabits per second, nor do they understand infrastructure," said Helson. "but they understand services. So we, the council, are making a step beyond just supporting the operators to widening the overview to cover the services. We are looking to enhance quality of life, which can be done through services offered on FTTH."

"We are lagging behind, compared to Asia Pacific," he continued. "We need to find a solution for remote healthcare and remote employment, and we think that FTTH can play a large role in benefitting both the ICT section and the industrial sector."

"Interconnection and the ability to compete through very high speed broadband is critical to the Portuguese citizen," said Professor Jose Amado de Silva, Chairman of Portuguese telecom regulator ANACOM, in brief remarks prior to the prime minister's speech.

"We are very proud to host this conference," said Eng. Jose Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal, in English. "We take it as high importance to show our commitment to rolling out broadband.

"I am sorry that a prime minister cannot say much more in a foreign language in his country," the prime minister continued, with a laugh as he switched to Portuguese.

Rankings that the Council released today show that Portugal is the 14th ranked European country in terms of fiber rollout, but the Prime Minister of Portugal pointed out in his remarks that adoption is rapidly rising.

"Our broadband rollout goals, set in 2005, are clear," the prime minister said. "We have moved from 16th place to first place in e-government. We are also a leader in citizens using the internet to pay taxes, with more paying online than using paper last year. More than 60 per cent of Portuguese internet users are linked by broadband."

"Meeting those goals," the prime minster continued, "provides a strong incentive to continue. In 2009, more than 1% of households were connected to fiber, and the uptake on fiber has increased 186% over the past year, to 41,000 connected households. In terms of potential fiber drops, 2009 also showed a 575% increase to 1.15 million potential households. This shows how committed we are very high penetration of fiber to the home."

Helson also said that the Council's expansion will include search companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as broadcasters, which we'll cover tomorrow in an article titled "Fiber to the Home: It's More Than Just TV"

"The micro-economic model also needs to grow," said Helson. "The telecommunications sector needs to work with education and entertainment sectors to offer services that are appealing in the rural areas, because ICT services alone are not enough to drive adoption."

Helson and his research partners see the need for higher upstream speeds for video services will push adoption of fiber, as the typical upstream speeds in the home on cable and asynchronous DSL (ADSL) in Europe are lower than necessary for HD video chat or gaming. ADSL has higher downstream (or download speeds) than upstream speeds and is also prevalent in the United States.

"The announcement of Cisco's telepresence for the home," said Roland Montagne, Director of Telecoms Business Unit with IDATE Consulting and Research, "at CES was very helpful in reminding users why they need fiber to the home in Europe: home telepresence requires 1.5 Mbps upstream speeds and IPTV also needs very fast connections for viewing multiple channels in the home."

Helson said growth will come as regulatory policy is defined within the next nine months.

"For the sake of growth in some of the larger European economies, we look forward to new regulatory insights from the European Commission," Helson continued, referring to insights coming from the Information Society and Media, headed by Commissioner Vivian Reding. "These new regulations will be beneficial to provided a platform for investment in these networks."

The prime minister echoed these comments.

"What have we done, as a government, to drive adoption?" Socrates asked. "We have partnered with the utilities and operators. We have made a clear policy. We have made available lines of credit. These commitments have translated to results and leave us satisfied as to meeting goals, but we are continuing to systematically advance, and investment is needed to do so."

"As we move forward," Socrates continued, "we must be certain that not only will the most populous areas benefit, but also to guarantee that rural areas will be covered, even though they are not commercially attractive. Our goal is to get to 100% coverage - to be the first European country to be fully covered by broadband."

"Even though it was pouring rain yesterday when we arrived," Helson said, referring to the stormy weather Lisbon and all of Portugal has faced in recent days in his remarks to the prime minister, "today at the start of our conference there is sunshine. We take as a sign of the future growth of fiber to the home in Europe."

FTTH European Council continues until February 25. In keeping with the intent of putting on Council events in locations where fiber penetration is just beginning, Milan is next year's venue for the FTTH Council Europe. Helson said today's research findings show that Italy has one of the lowest adoptions of fiber to the home within Europe. The event will be held from February 9-11, 2011, a week before the annual Mobile World Congress event.

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