Why India may bypass G.fast and Vplus broadband in Favor of FTTH ?

Broadband in IndiaG.fast and Vplus (also known as 35MHz technology and super-vectoring) are two new technologies that will allow incumbent operators to deliver ultrafast 200Mbps+ broadband speeds using existing copper lines. Both technologies use existing fibre to the cabinet networks but enable the utilisation of a wider frequency band down the copper line from the cabinet to the home to achieve greater capacity and faster speeds. FTTH could be the best infrastructure for long-term future demands, but G.fast and Vplus could enable the postponement of FTTH spend for a decade or more where there are substantial number of DSL Subscribers on Copper Telecom Network.

Need for High DSL Broadband Speed – Materially higher speeds are being demanded by customers as capacity usage accelerates (largely driven by growing content over broadband demand). They are a necessary service offering for incumbents to be able to compete with high speed cable networks.

Both are being trialled by multiple operators with early feedback on both technologies very positive in terms of real-world application and speeds delivered. Both operators and technology developers expect technology standardisation in early 2016 and expect full scale commercial rollout to begin by the end of 2016. As the technologies do not require fibre roll-out beyond the cabinet to the home, they avoid the cost of further civil works – which deploying fibre to the home (FTTH) incurs. G.fast can also be utilised to take fibre closer to the home (e.g. to the telegraph pole, apartment block basement etc.) but would still avoid the high civil works cost of rolling fibre all the way into the home.

Cost of Equipment Upgrade ?
There is greater uncertainty around the future cost of G.fast given it requires new in-network equipment including chipsets. The operators expect these to come down in price, particularly when the second wave of chipsets is released. We note that all new technologies – G.fast, Vplus, FTTH, DOCSIS 3.1 – will require new CPE (customer premise equipment).

Reliability G.fast and Vplus are not able to directly reduce fault costs in the way that FTTH can (indeed, the deployment of additional hardware for G.fast could increase fault rates in the near term). However, this is less of a material differentiator than some might imagine.

In the context of India, obtaining Right of Way for laying Telecom cables till Cabinet is a Herculean Task. Once if they roll-out Fibre to the Cabinet, it is a cake walk to pull another 100-400 meters of Fibre to the Home [Over Neighbor’s House, Poles, Trees, etc]. Thus in our opinion, new greenfield operators like Reliance Jio Infocomm skipped the Copper era and logged in with FTTH Infrastructure.