FTTR: Solving the Home Connectivity Bottleneck
A guest post from Emir Halilovic, Research Director of Telecom Technology & Software Group at GlobalData.
About the author
Emir focuses on optical transport layer products and technology, including WDM, OTN switching, OADMs, packet optical networking, and converged IP/optical platforms. He has a particular interest in how deep changes in networks, like 5G, NFV, and SDN, affect the evolution of transport products and technologies.
The accelerated growth of fiber-to-the home (FTTH) deployments in recent years has brought residential users a qualitatively different kind of broadband connectivity.
Fiber, as a medium, offers practically limitless connectivity, and common FTTH technologies in use today offer sufficient bandwidth and connection quality to support all current and near-future applications – like
- 4K video
- Cloud gaming
- Mixed Reality (XR),
- HD video communications
But with fiber becoming commonplace, and mainstream connectivity medium in many geographies, operators now face another challenge – to ensure that their customers’ quality of experience is not impeded by suboptimal in-home connectivity.
Currently, most users access the majority of applications at home using wireless connectivity between their devices and in-home CPE. Often, the CPE-generated Wi-Fi signal must penetrate walls (and ceilings and floors in multi-story dwellings), with associated signal weakening and worsened reception. Another problem is interference, which affects all but completely isolated homes – the worst-case scenario being multi-dwelling units.
The result of this situation is that the home network is quickly becoming a choke point that can impede home broadband performance. This increases customer complaints, lowers net promoter scores (NPSs), and can negatively affect service take-up.
To solve the problem of in-house connectivity, telecom equipment vendors created the concept of fiber-to-the-room (FTTR) to extend the FTTH concept throughout the customer premises. The FTTR concept has the following features:
- In-home fiber connectivity: In the past, operators and equipment vendors have tried to solve the problem of poor in-home connectivity through various methods, like wireless network extenders, mesh wireless, or power line communications. Each offers some degree of improvement, but is usually limited to supporting bandwidths that are lower than those currently offered by FTTH solutions. The FTTR concept uses optical fiber to connect an in-home central CPE (primary FTTR) with satellite CPEs (edge FTTR), which then supply connectivity to customer devices, thus removing the bandwidth limitation inherent to other methods.
- Full-speed wireless: FTTR offers operators the method to provide superior in-home connectivity without resorting to extenders, mesh networking, or other methods. The customer devices are always in full line of sight of the wireless access points and receive optimal signal strength, resulting in the highest possible performance with the only limit being the currently used Wi-Fi technology standard. Wi-Fi 6 technology, for example, provides data rates of up to 2 Gbit/s. In the future, Wi-Fi transfer rates will increase with the emergence of new Wi-Fi standards.
- Reduced interference: The above characteristic of FTTR also ensures that the impact of radio interference is also minimized – in-home edge FTTR wireless signal will always be significantly stronger than the signal of interfering access points from neighboring homes or apartments.
The concept of FTTR therefore offers very attractive benefits, especially when coupled with currently deployed 10G PON technologies like XG(S)-PON. And it will become increasingly important as operators start deploying even faster PON technologies. However, operators considering FTTR need to also re-examine the impact this new in-home connectivity technology will have on their O&M and business models.
- Deployment considerations: FTTR relies on deploying physical conduits – optical fiber – in customer premises. In the past, this has been a major obstacle that both prevented operators from using legacy technologies like Ethernet or coaxial cabling between rooms in customer premises. Therefore, most techniques for improving in-home connectivity relied either on wireless, or on existing conduits (like PLC). FTTR solutions, however, minimize physical intervention in customer premises using a combination of very thin optical cables and smart deployment techniques that allowed fiber cable to be mounted along the existing wall and floor edges, and requiring no drilling and invasive work in buildings. By avoiding construction work, FTTR deployment can be quick, non-invasive, and relatively inexpensive.
- CSP broadband business model impact: By allowing operators to enhance the customer broadband experience, FTTR enables telcos to significantly improve their FTTH business models. Aside from the increased revenue operators can generate from selling FTTR, customers who are able to fully realize the benefits that fiber-based broadband provides will be much more open to adopt add-on services that require high-performance in-home connectivity. On the operations side, FTTR can help significantly reduce customer complaints and release call center and tech support staff to perform other tasks. Finally, operators deploying FTTR will be able to contract their customers’ superior experience favorably against operators that do not – thus improving service take-up and stickiness.
FTTR therefore represents a highly efficient solution for operators seeking to solve the problem of in-house connectivity performance. Compared to other methods that were used to solve the problem in the past, FTTR is essentially future proof. Since it uses fiber as a medium instead of wireless or copper, operators can always match FTTR performance to their currently deployed FTTH solution, ensuring customers application performance remains unimpeded by home connectivity issues.
At the same time, due to technological advancements in deployment techniques, FTTR is much easier to deploy than legacy wired technologies and keeps physical intervention in customer premises to a minimum, with invasive construction work required. This is potentially the greatest catalyst of FTTR adoption, as minimizing construction works makes deploying the new technology faster, cheaper, and less intrusive.
Finally, FTTR can serve as a powerful complement to operators’ broadband service portfolios, enabling customers to take advantage of the full potential of their broadband connections regardless of their housing circumstances. As a result, it can improve customer satisfaction with the service and produce associated benefits for operators in the areas of improved take-up, reduced churn, add-on service sales, and improved operator competitiveness.
Learn more about Huawei’s FTTR solution.
Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.