Etisalat and du thread hole with fibre
ABU DHABI // Ultra-fast internet connections that carry data at the speed of light directly into homes and offices will be the focus of a two-day conference beginning today in Dubai. Although fibre-optic internet connections have made their way into homes in hi-tech economies such as Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea for many years, they still represent a long-term dream for most countries.
The cost of bringing fibre to homes is high, and can be hard to justify for operators in mature markets. The UK's BT, which was the former telecommunications monopoly, will invest US$20 billion (Dh73.47bn) to $25bn in the coming years rolling out a national fibre network. But when choosing a foundation technology to start with from scratch, fibre systems are a good choice, according to Milan Sallaba, a partner at the management consultancy Oliver Wyman.
"While thousands of new houses and whole new cities are springing up, it makes sense," he said. "It's not as if there is some other new technology around the corner - if you have the choice today, you choose fibre." Those living in a home connected to a fibre network enjoy internet access more than 10 times faster than current high-speed packages. In the UAE, both Etisalat and du are rolling out such a system, with Etisalat building a national network that it says will begin reaching customers by the end of the year.
These systems, know as "fibre to the home" (FTTH), will be a key point of discussion at the FTTX conference beginning today. The X in the title refers to anything from homes and offices to schools or hospitals. "It is all about bandwidth, delivering huge amounts of bandwidth to the end user," said Ihab Ghattas, the assistant president for the Middle East at Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications company that is working with Etisalat on the UAE fibre project. "It opens the door to a lot of very exciting new services."
Optic fibre transmits information as beams of light rather than electrical charges. Its massive capacity means it is used as the backbone of global communications networks. But the "last mile" that connects most homes and businesses to these networks is typically made of copper, a low-bandwidth medium. An FTTH system removes this bottleneck, letting the river of data surge directly to the end user.
Interest in FTTH networks has spiked in recent years as the popularity of bandwidth-hungry services such as streaming online television and peer-to-peer file sharing put enormous strain on traditional networks and boosted demand for faster connections. The fastest internet currently available to UAE residential users is a package from du offering download speeds of up to 12 megabits per second (Mbps). In Japan, where more than 40 per cent of the population are reached by FTTH networks, the average download speed is 93 Mbps, with one operator offering a 1024 Mbps package.
Updated: October 12, 2008 04:00 AM