Q. What have been the key FTTx developments in the region over the past 12 months?
We’re seeing a growing interest from tier 1 operators, independent service providers (ISPs), and the government. Operators need and have to, build 3G and 4G networks, and also the last mile, as there’s no way around that. Given spectrum challenges with building coverage there are also more advanced discussions today about taking fiber all the way to the house.
Average speeds that the ISPs are offering has traditionally gone from 10-15Mbps and just a few weeks ago there are now a couple of operators offering 1Gbps in India. What we’re seeing more and more are operators are asking how to take fiber to the home.
The right of way in the cities need to be streamlined and the government aims to speed up permissions so deployments can be better planned logistically, time-wise and also reduce costs associated with delays.
The government is working with the Ministry of Urban Development to look at what other rules and regulations there are for in-building, for example: to ensure that there is a duct for the fiber in advance before builds start. We’ve seen this in other countries including China and in Europe. Positive FTTx change.
Q. How has FTTx demand in the region evolved in recent years and how are you aiming to meet those demands in 2017?
We’ve been very innovative from the glass layer, the fiber, to the cable. We’ve looked at 200-micron fiber, which are much thinner cables that lead into solutions like micro cables. We’re working very closely with tier 1 operators in India and globally, looking at ribbons cables, which can be spliced much faster. We’ve also come up with an FTTH solution, an entire kit, which reduces splicing requirements by 80%. So on average, if a 12-storey building takes 3 days to connect, we’re now able to do it in 5-6 hours. These are the solutions that we have already developed, patented and we’re in the process of conducting proofs of concept with operators in India.
With smart cities, we’re working with a couple of Indian cities, not just on the cable side but the deployment side, on solutions to reduce the time of deployment by almost 30-40%.
The last part we’re working on is training and skill development. As such, we launched a Sterlite Tech centre of excellence academy with complete course materials, and a Sterlite Tech certification.
Q. What are the key challenges in the region and how are you preparing to tackle them?
Not just deployment challenges and we always start by looking at what are the pain points of the country. In India, less than 20-30% of the country is well connected. We ask what are those tools and solutions that we can pioneer or bring to India. We’re working closely with operators and the government on a $12 billion project to bring fiber connectivity to more villages. A programme like this would probably take 7-8 years to deploy, we will try and find solutions in the next 3-4 years to make that happen.
Q. What do you hope to achieve out of your attendance at the FTTH APAC Conference event?
Firstly, I must congratulate the FTTH APAC conference as this is an incredible and much-needed platform, which fundamentally revolves around sharing knowledge of best practice on challenges and opportunities. There is presence not just from India but also globally from South Africa and the US for example, which is great.
A lot of the challenges we face today in the Indian market have already been addressed in other economies around the world, so having these constructive dialogues around the technologies is critical. Many solutions will come from the collaborative discussions we have and we’re developing our ecosystem of partners. It’s great to have the government here too as they can see what other tier 1 players are doing around the world.