China takes a simple, rational step towards FTTH

25 January 2013 by Steve Blum
, , ,

It’s a long march to San Leandro.

The Chinese government is adopting a policy that’s been urged here in the U.S. Starting in April, Beijing will require new homes that are built within reach of an Internet backbone to be connected directly by fiber.

It’s one of the policies we looked at when we did an economic development-related study for the City of San Leandro. That particular study was focused on improving commercial and industrial broadband availability, but we looked at the same basic policy question: should broadband be treated like any other essential utility, and be subject to the same sort of minimum requirements when new construction or major remodeling is done?

The answer was an emphatic yes.

Broadband facilities and service availability should be included as criteria when reviewing private sector development plans, much in the same way that the City currently considers electrical and water provisioning.

We recommended giving consideration to:

  • Standards or requirements for fiber connections to existing networks.
  • Placement of empty conduit to support future network connections.
  • Design and scale of telecommunication service entry points, vaults and closets.
  • Access opportunities for competitive providers.
  • Conduits and cabling for internal networks.
  • Accommodation of future internal and external upgrades.

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) systems can be very expensive to build, often prohibitively so, when existing homes are involved. But putting in the primary infrastructure adds little or anything to the cost of a new home. Most of the expensive is involved with installing conduit, which has to go in anyway. Adding fiber to the mix doesn’t affect the cost much. With copper prices continuing to rise, it could even save money.

The goal for China is 40 million fiber connected homes by 2015. If we did that here in the U.S., more than one household out of three would have a fiber connection. A third of the country. It’s much smaller fraction in China – about ten percent – but no less impressive.