Starman going where no European cable operator has gone before
If I asked many of you to estimate what your home entertainment and communication needs will look like 5-10 years from now, you will struggle to craft a good definition. However, if you simply compare what you contract now to only a few years ago, you will clearly see the explosive rate of change in service offerings, device support and bandwidth on offer.
Cable Multi-System Operators (MSOs) have led the broadband access charge over the past decade, adapting to new subscriber consumption trends and making investments - such as upgrades to the DOCSIS™ technology in their Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) networks - that enable them to capitalize on the desire for increasingly higher speed IP connectivity. The status quo sees MSOs once again making key strategic investment decisions on access and network evolution to meet not only ever increasing bandwidth demands, but to adapt to how that bandwidth is used with new applications, such as Ultra-HD TV, on-demand services, and virtual and augmented reality to name a few. European MSOs see double digit traffic growth year on year – a figure of 30% was discussed at a recent european trade event – and in some countries such as Estonia, cable operator Starman has seen this figure rise to 50%.
Within all the technological and architectural variants that exist to hone an access evolution strategy to meet expected scale requirements, competitive offers and budget, most cable operators agree that fiber to the home ( FTTH ) is the ultimate technology solution for greenfield deployments where cabling has to be laid. Meanwhile, the jury is out on brownfield1, with most providers looking to squeeze the maximum out of those coaxial runs already in the ground. At the end of the day, the decision is about how to make the economics work over the lifetime of the technology.
FTTH solutions win for longer life expectancy
In Estonia, Starman has made a bold move by deploying a next generation 10G-capable EPON (Ethernet passive optical network) FTTH solution not only in greenfield scenarios, but as a brownfield upgrade from their existing state of the art DOCSIS 3.0 network, which currently offers a 500Mbps downstream service. They have found the magic formula for performing gradual brownfield upgrades without breaking the business case. This decision was based on the realization that, once deployed, an FTTH solution has a much longer life expectancy than HFC/DOCSIS, which will require numerous capacity investments over the same time period. For Starman, the cost per bit of a HFC/DOCSIS capacity solution is estimated to be 10 times higher that of 10G EPON.
Starman CTO Jaanus Erlemann explains their rationale for moving to 10G EPON with Nokia in this interview:
Starman are happy to be trailblazing with a European first for a 10G EPON capable residential network. They will be be able to provide a high percentage of their customer base with internet services up to blistering 10 Gbps symmetrical speeds when demand arises. In the meanwhile, their network will offer flexible configurations moving through customer tiers of 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps to 10 Gbps - keeping the competition at bay, and the pricing down! With services like their “Time Machine”, Starman clearly seem to determined to go where no operator has gone before.
The Starman case shows that a fiber overlay approach can be a valid alternative to outside plant2 upgrades to DOCSIS 3.1 as cable operators contemplate their network evolution options.
Did you know?
- Starman wins Leading Lights 2017 award for most innovative Gigabit/Ultra-Broadband Service Awarded to the communications service provider that has launched the most innovative Gigabit/Ultra-Broadband (UBB) service offering during the past year!
- Need for speed: In October 2016, Starman and Nokia registered the highest ever fixed network residential broadband speed of 8.455 Gbps in a publicly conducted lab test modelled according to real-life conditions, thus beating the previous European record set by a Finnish operator in May of the same year (3.055 Gbps).
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1 In networking, a greenfield deployment is the installation and configuration of a network where none existed before, for example in a new office. A brownfield deployment, in contrast, is an upgrade or addition to an existing network and uses some legacy components.2 Outside plant refers to all of the physical cabling and supporting infrastructure (such as conduit, cabinets, tower or poles), and any associated hardware (such as repeaters) located between a demarcation point in a switching facility and a demarcation point in another switching center or customer premises.