FTTH Connections Increase by 13%, Spur Communities' Economic Growth

  • FTTH
WASHINGTON, DC - More North American households than ever have direct fiber connections to the Internet, says the Fiber-to-the-Home Council Americas. The number of fiber-connected households grew by 13 percent over the past year.

The Council's latest figures, based on research by market analyst firm RVA LLC, show that 900,000 households across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean have upgraded to FTTH service since April 2011, and the total number of North American homes with all-fiber connections surged past 8 million. FTTH is now available to 19.3 million households on the continent.

About 95 percent of FTTH households are in the United States, which began to see a significant expansion of fiber deployment in 2004 when Verizon began upgrading to FTTH in much of its wireline footprint. However, deployment is now beginning to rise in other North American countries. Canadian households now represent 3 percent of FTTH on the continent, and Mexico and the Caribbean account for 2 percent.

Although Verizon is still the largest FTTH provider on the continent, the number of FTTH network operators in North America is nearing 1,000. An increasing number of small and medium-sized incumbent telephone companies, most located in rural and small-town areas, swap out their copper plant with fiber so they can offer faster Internet speeds and video services to stay competitive and bring next-generation connectivity to their communities. Also building FTTH networks are a variety of competitive broadband companies, municipalities and public electric utilities. The vast majority of FTTH network operators serve fewer than 10,000 subscribers.

"The pure numbers of FTTH providers and their diversity is something that is uniquely North American. No other region of the world is seeing this," says Michael Render, president of RVA.

Fiber Increases Economic Activity
In a recent RVA survey, 58 percent of FTTH providers reported seeing increased local economic activity related to the availability of more robust, all-fiber networks they have deployed.

"The notion that the upgrade to FTTH can be a catalyst for economic development is precisely what is driving this enormous interest in high-speed fiber we are seeing at the community level across North America," says Heather Burnett Gold, president of the FTTH Council Americas. "Civic leaders in communities of all sizes have a sense that more bandwidth means more opportunities for economic progress."

"These latest numbers underscore that phenomenon in two ways - they show that smaller telecoms are continuing to upgrade to FTTH and that many are indeed seeing a positive economic impact in their communities after they deploy," she adds.

The RVA survey also found that government-supported FTTH stimulus projects are now 38 percent complete on average, and many expect to start connecting subscribers this year. Environmental reviews and heavy demand for fiber optic cable were cited as reasons for the delays.

Another important survey finding was that FTTH providers are increasingly involved in providing fiber to cell towers. In 2011, more than 1,500 towers were connected with fiber by small, single-state providers.

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