LTE can replace DSL, but can it also replace FTTH?

Thursday 22 September 2011 | 14:35 CET | Market Commentary

TranSwitch has announced a new router, called the ‘LTE Fixed Wireless Residential Gateway Solution’. The company notes that, to date, residential broadband access has been the “exclusive domain” of wireline operators. However, LTE is a “game changer” that will allow mobile operators to offer equivalent services such as VoIP, high-speed internet and IP video to residential customers. Vodafone Germany announced already in August plans to migrate its DSL customers to LTE, in order to save on the wholesale costs of taking DSL network services from Telekom Deutschland. This underlines the advantages of owning your own infrastructure. A few weeks later Tele2 came out with a new LTE router that will be launched next year in Sweden as a replacement for fixed (DSL) lines. Tele2 confirmed it will pursue the same strategy in the Netherlands, if it goes ahead with building a LTE network after the spectrum auction early next year.

So LTE can be a fixed-wireless technology, as well as a DSL replacement. Is this really true though, given the huge growth in data traffic (both fixed and mobile), the fact that fixed networks always carry more traffic than mobile networks, and that mobile broadband is more expensive than fixed? LTE has advantages over 3G/HSPA, such as a much higher efficiency and lower latency. The cost per bit is much lower, and the first experiences in Sweden, where Telia and Tele2 are already using LTE as a replacement for the fixed line (via USB modems) show that a good user experience is possible. Still, it’s difficult to believe that LTE will work once massive amounts of video are streamed over the network. It’s clear then that LTE works only as a DSL replacement, and not a FTTH replacement.

If the LTE network can’t keep up, then switching (back) to DSL is a possibility, but operators in that case will undoubtedly want to sell an upgrade to FTTH. It’s no surprise then that companies such as Vodafone and Tele2 are pushing ahead with fibre deployments, whether it’s for mobile backhaul (fibre-to-the-site, FTTS) or to end-users (FTTH). Vodafone has launched FTTH services in the Netherlands on Reggefiber’s network, and Tele2 is rolling out FTTH in Sweden on a limited scale.

If LTE can’t keep up with data traffic, it’s primarily due to the access network (the connection between the base station and end-user). This problem can be helped by deploying more base stations and a range of efficiency solutions hitting the market (such as the new Liquid Net system from Nokia Siemens and lightRadio from Alcatel-Lucent). But the next bottleneck will be backhaul. Fibre is also increasing in importance for this, and Vodafone and T-Mobile are both busy with FTTS. In short, fibre is critical for the success of LTE.

Telecompaper is organising on 12 October the conference Breedband 2011 in The Hague.

Free Headlines in your E-mail

Every day we send out a free e-mail with the most important headlines of the last 24 hours.

Subscribe now

::: add a comment