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Fighting for Fibre

July 25, 2012

I went to hear Susan Crawford speak at the Science Gallery last night. Susan is the Visiting Stanton Professor of the First Amendment in Harvard .  She is a member of Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Council on Technology and Innovation. She also served as Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy to President Obama  in 2009 and co-led the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations.

Her talk was all about the need for fibre to the home. She made the point that the USA and countries like Ireland are behind and will continue to behind unless we take this step. Her main points centred around the fact that this cannot happen without the right policies & legislation and involvement from Government. She likened  the introduction of fibre to the home to electrification which seemed to really strike a chord with the audience.  I particularly liked her phrase ‘equal creativity‘ when she spoke about equal upload and download speeds being possible with fibre.

I could not agree more.  We need to go to fibre to the home.  That is why is is particularly disheartening to see articles like BT: Not all of the UK needs full fibre broadband in zdnet his week.  BT makes the point that the cost involved in a fibre-to-the-premises rollout for all UK residences is unnecessary as existing technologies can be extended for faster download speeds in the future.

The simple point is that the cost of not doing this is far greater.

Apart from the fact it should never be part of a  national strategy to purposefully create a two-tiered society (those who have FTTH and those who do not), history is littered with stories of experts making the claim that ‘people will never need more capacity than X’.  While there are issues around the business and pricing models around broadband in general, making the excuse that we only need capacity X is short-sighted. I go back also here to Susan’s comments on equal creativity. FTTH is an enabler of things to come and in my opinion is not just about dimensioning for capacity based on our current understanding and the current limits of our imagination.

Of course it is important (and this is where the technology side of me comes in) to put the ‘right’ FTTH network in place.

In CTVR we look at both wireless and optical networks. I come from the wireless side so the optical world has been a steep learning curve for me over the past number of years. My colleagues Marco Ruffini and Dave Payne have educated me a lot on this topic.

In our world view we are looking at long reach passive optical networks (LR-PON) in the access and a flat core. One immediate consequence of a long-reach access is that the metro network that is commonly used to interconnect access and core networks becomes superfluous, and can be eliminated. This greatly reduces the amount of equipment in the network as a whole and the energy costs associated with it.  This removes the bottleneck (both from a technological and economical viewpoint) due to electronic processing at the local exchange site or central office and metro network transmission systems. Applied to the core network our approach leads to the concept of a flat all-optical core, which again will considerably reduce the need for expensive and power-hungry electronic routers.

Since the user connects via a fibre straight to the core, the core boundary can be eliminated and any network port can offer a direct access to the core. Such ubiquitous high bandwidth access leads to a scenario where no privileged point of connection to the network exists and all access connections deliver the same bandwidth and service capability to all types of users, including service providers. We call this the Principle of Equivalence. In reality it means that wherever you are you can build a business, get the connectivity you need.  It is a further means of embodying equal creativity into the network in my opinion!

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From → Optical Networks

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