Optical Connections Magazine Summer 2022


PD How are national governments adapting their digital agendas to EU Commission’s target for digital transformation of Europe by 2030?

practices from the entire value chain of FTTH deployment. It’s not only a question of product, not only a question of rollout methodology and processes, it is not only a question of maintenance, it’s the end-to-end chain around FTTH which has to question itself on how to make every single step more sustainable, emit less carbon and be greener. We have started that process will keep on going in that direction, but I think we now have to ask how we make sure our industry makes the effort it has to. The second thing is that fibre in itself, as a passive infrastructure, compared to cable or fixed wireless access is the most carbon neutral broadband access technology by far. There is no comparison between an HFC network with multiple nodes which need to be powered individually and a fully passive fibre system. Moreover, fibre is a much more robust technology which requires far less maintenance than copper or HFC networks, which limits maintenance work, meaning fewer truck rolls and less visits for field technicians, which also has an environmental impact. Fibre in itself is the greenest available broadband technology, and as it is future proof, it’s also an enabler of multiple applications which will be essential in managing the transition towards a greener society. So, there are multiple levels to our discussion, including the promotion of fibre for its benefits, the promotion of high-speed connectivity and more generally speaking, fibre itself, which we think is the best option as an enabler of broadband.

energy consumption compared to anything which uses radio and a lot of active equipment, and so we believe that as far as possible, priority should be given to full fibre connectivity. We also understand however, that in some areas, it might take a while before every household is fully connected and fixed wireless access could be seen as a useful transition technology, especially if the existing legacy network has very poor bandwidth. So, it’s fully understandable that some regions want it now and that don’t want to wait another two or three years before they have decent connectivity. From that perspective, running on fixed wireless access based on 4G is far superior to relying on a low-quality network, so for us, it’s a transition technology, or an exception. But when we say an exception, we are talking about 1%, or less of the number of households using fixed wireless access where really, there is absolutely no justification to spend a disproportionate amount of investment to reach a couple of houses. In urban areas, the FTTH Council, doesn’t really see the justification for fixed wireless access. Having full fibre technology deployed in dense urban areas has proven to be commercially viable and offering a much more stable and future proof solution. Technically, it’s possible to have fixed wireless access within urban areas, and then it’s people’s choice to choose between different solutions, however, we would definitely not want to encourage any government to subsidise or favour fixed wireless access. One of the risks we see is that if fixed wireless access is considered as an equivalent, or as good a solution as FTTH, the risk is that within a few years we will create a new digital divide where fibre will have adapted and scaled up to support the evolution of bandwidth requirements while fixed wireless access will struggle to scale to the required level. The reason why we’re putting fibre in the ground now is not for today, it’s more importantly for future generations. You’re not spending billions every generation on infrastructure, so when you make that effort, as far as possible you want to do it for good and make sure that all the disruption caused by digging the streets and putting fibre in the ground is done just once, and you don’t have to redo it every 10 years. If you equip one area with a solution which is very likely to become obsolete in 10 years’ time, you need to think twice before you do it.

Speaking about the EU institutions specifically, the interesting thing with the role


played by the Commission lately is the toolbox that has been proposed for all member states, which is basically a set of best practices made available for national governments. There is also the requirement by the Commission for each country to set up a roadmap, which is the country’s choice of actions and priorities to reach the target in line with the general guidance brought by the Commission, with yearly reporting as part of that process. The Commission is just starting to implement the plan and is equipping every member state with a lot of data, a lot of best practices they can choose from, asking each country to come up with a roadmap and will agree on the target activity and monitoring with each country on an annual basis. The progress and allocation of funds from the Recovery Fund is also linked to that process and the Commission will not bring EU money to telecoms and fibre investment without this prerequisite and visibility on how the money is going to be allocated. However, as we are we are still at the beginning of the process, it’s too early to draw a conclusion on how it will work and be implemented. But what I heard from the executive vice president Margrethe Vestager at an event yesterday is that a detailed report is being shared with the Commission and many countries are taking it extremely seriously and are coming up with very robust plans.

On the environment, what is the FTTH Council doing to promote sustainability and a


greener society?

This is becoming a central topic especially thanks to the coronavirus and the


circumstances around it. Increasingly people are seeing the move towards digital and the move towards a more carbon neutral society as two sides of the same coin. What we are doing at the Council first of all, is we are talking about that subject in our events. Indeed, it’s been part of our digital online events since 2020 and there will be panels around that theme in Vienna. We have also set up a dedicated committee and we are gathering best

Vincent Garnier, Director General, FTTH Council Europe



ISSUE 29 | Q2 2022

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