On Friday the 11th April I attended the International Workshop: “FTTx architectures, technologies, business and economic aspects” organized by Athens Information Technology (AIT). It was an overall satisfying, well organized event that aimed at presenting 1) FTTx strategies, 2) operational and technical issues and 3) business and economic challenges faced or anticipated in broadband development in Greece.
I felt that one thing was missing though; the social aspects of FTTx which I find imperative to break down the puzzle, successfully.
Below are some remarks and opinions, which I wish to point out.
1. Representing the Government, Dr. George Anastasopoulos, General Secretary of Communications, Ministry of Transport and Communications presented an outline of the National Strategy for Broadband Development that the ministry is preparing for 2008 – 2013. The ministry’s national strategy with a projected expenditure of 3Bn Euros is being crafted based on three distinctive endeavors:
- Constructing broadband infrastructure for all citizens & making Greece an international telecommunications node.
- Deploying new technologies & services based on open access principles & dark fiber provisioning
- Designing and implementing a set of pilot applications/services to make the public aware of the benefits of broadband
The business case is under final evaluation and will soon be released for public consultation. A low bird told me this will happen possibly before this summer…
A pre-announcement was also made for the implementation of a pilot web service for monitoring and displaying the current electromagnetic radiation levels in the country (Would that mean the entire country?). Color Indications (e.g. green, yellow red) conditioned on the allowable electromagnetic radiation levels will be provided.
[A few years back, a colleague and I have thought of doing something similar. However, we have estimated that the cost for a) system operation, b) the provision of a minimum useful level of geographical accuracy and c) near real-time information update, in combination with the expected service demand, made the idea not worth the shot. Back then; Because today, I am impatient to get a glimpse of this new trick and its prospects!]
2. Representing NRA – EETT, Dr. Nikolaos Koulouris, Vice-President, Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission (EETT) presented the ERG Opinion/Common Position on Regulatory Principles for Next Generation Access – NGA. I really have not much to say on this. It is sound and nice! If someone wishes to read more on this he can download the document from the ERG web site.
3. Finally, Mr. Pantelis Papadopoulos, representative of the Greek Licensed Telecommunication Providers Association, SATPE made some remarks on 1) the unclear regulatory framework for FTTx investments, 2) the delaying game (according to SATPE) of OTE in the broadband development process in the country, and, being sincere enough, 3) the need for coordination of investment efforts among the members of SATPE (thus avoiding the construction of replicate infrastructures with no additional value to either the end-customer nor the telecommunications providers).
I believe that all sides understand from their own standpoint that FTTx is a whole new ball game. What is important is that it must be treated as such when deciding on national and corporate strategy, industry regulation and policy, and (let me add here) business models altogether. The potential of fiber to provide ever increasing download and (most importantly) upload speeds will revolutionize society the way telephony and software did, or more! End-users will stop being passive consumers of information and will create, distribute and share their own exclusive content.
FTTx infrastructure provides the foundations for a new business and social ecosystem where customer welfare will increase not only due to additional electronic services available (e.g. e-commerce, e-health e-*) but also from other social benefits (i.e. work from home and stay close to family, property value increase due to fiber connection etc.).
Eventually, telecom operators who will acknowledge the inevitable future changes in personal and social life in their business models might be able to survive the radical changes that are coming along. Replicating DSL business models into FTTx offerings will not be enough for the simple reason that figures do not add up! Content services will have to be integrated in network access offerings, and content is not just voice and video any more…