"Fibre to the Home" round table – an initial status report
Geneva, 06.10.2009 - The round table on rolling out the optical fibre network to homes (Fibre To The Home – FTTH) and the corresponding working groups are producing concrete results: the major players are in agreement on uniform technical standards. Hence there are no longer any technical barriers to the rapid expansion of the fibre-optic network. In addition, coordination will be able to prevent the parallel construction of new networks, by laying multiple fibres in every building (multiple fibre model). At the same time the participants in the round table are agreed that all providers must have access to the fibre-optic network under the same conditions, in order to protect end-users' freedom of choice.
Thanks to the cooperation between the players involved in rolling out the optical fibre network – telecoms service providers, electricity utilities and cable network operators – it has been possible within the framework of the round table and the ComCom and OFCOM working groups to achieve some concrete results; these can now be published (see below).
After the round table on 5 October 2009, ComCom and OFCOM are now able to draw up an encouraging status report:
Parallel construction of new optical fibre networks can be avoided by laying multiple fibres in each building. At the same time the participants in the round table are agreed that all providers must have access to the various levels of the fibre-optic network under the same conditions. This promotes competition and consumers will be able to continue to choose their telecoms provider freely.
As explained below, it has been possible for the companies involved to draw up and adopt important uniform technical standards. The round table and two different working groups will continue to exist, in order to clarify outstanding points or deal with them in greater detail. In addition, ComCom will check which new regulatory instruments it will be necessary to introduce in order to combat any future shortcomings in the market: the Federal Council will express its views to parliament by mid-2010 at the latest.
Uniform home installation
With a view to making it easier in technical terms for customers to switch providers, the participants in the round table drew up various recommendations. For example, the multi-fibre connection must ensure that multiple network and service providers have access to customers. In addition, the operators agreed on a single plug connector type for sockets in homes, to save customers the trouble of searching for the correct adapter cable when they switch providers.
Access to the fibre-optic network for service providers
The participants drew up further recommendations for standardised network access by services. Thanks to an open interface, service providers will enjoy network access to customers at all times by network operators. If, at a later date, the customer opts for a different service provider on the same fibre-optic network, the switch will be possible without any technical problems. This standardised network access is intended to facilitate competition. The companies involved are seeking a uniform platform for ordering and operating optical fibres.
Contracts between house owners and fibre-optic network operators
The participants in the round table also discussed the principles on which contracts between house owners and fibre network operators are to be concluded. They are agreed that within a building at least four fibres are to be laid in each dwelling. This is the only way to ensure access under non-discriminatory and reasonable conditions to existing home fibre-optic installations. In order to make it easier for customers to switch providers, periods of notice and cancellation conditions must also be agreed which prevent house owners from being tied in too tightly and at the same time take into account the interests of network operators when contracts are terminated. These points will be further discussed with a view to adopting a joint recommendation.
Four working groups
In conjunction with the industry, the Federal Office of Communications OFCOM has set up working groups to coordinate the roll-out of fibre-optic networks in Switzerland. The first working group ("L1") is dealing with the specification of internal domestic cabling and the second ("L2") with standardisation of network access at the transport network level. A third working group ("L1B") dealt with defining the transfer points – those points where the operators' and alternative providers' networks are connected up – and the fourth group ("AG3") dealt with recommendations on drafting the contracts between house owners and fibre-optic network operators.
Fibre to the Home (FTTH)
Fibre to the Home (FTTH) describes a telecommunications network which extends via fibre-optic cable into every business, multiple dwelling or family home. Glass-fibre is a well-proven transmission medium for high data rates and will be necessary in the next few years as access networks evolve, because the old copper cables will no longer be adequate to meet the growing demand for high bandwidths for internet applications, especially high-definition television.
In autumn 2008, The Federal Communications Commission ComCom decided to conduct discussions with market players about this form of development; in this way it wishes to prevent the creation of monopolies which make access more difficult for other telecommunications providers and obstruct competition At the same time, network construction must take place as efficiently as possible, to allow economically appropriate investment.
Address for enquiries
Marc Furrer, ComCom President;
Philipp Metzger, OFCOM deputy director, Manager of the Telecom Services Division
Tel. 032 327 55 50 (OFCOM Media Office)