By Ray O’Connor, Chief Revenue Officer, Indigo
As governments commit to urban and rural rollouts as part of the EU’s European Gigabit Society objectives on connectivity, interest from investment houses follow suit. You might be forgiven for thinking that we are in the middle of a simple transition to super-fast networks with capacity to spare. But it is not always that easy.
The integral value of ubiquitous ‘full fibre’ access has had some very positive socioeconomic benefits across a great number of countries since COVID broke and lockdowns began, not only for those working remotely but for those living in and enjoying rural life and being able to remain living there because they are now having connectivity.
The direct appeal to investors is obvious – fibre is expensive to deploy but once in the ground the value quickly rises. Essentially it’s glass, which means it costs less to maintain than copper, ticks increasingly important ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria, and promises a huge payback over an extended period of time.
Appointing people with the expertise to design and build fibre networks can be more difficult than you might think. AltNet operators might be shocked to discover that higher education institutions are behind the curve, that the engineering talent pipeline is not there.
We recognised that the lack of fibre design and build courses created a need that we had to address. When it became clear that the talent pool was near empty, we set about creating our own. In the last three years, we have put enormous resources into the development of in-house training.
We design networks for both wireless/5G and fibre and take the fact they complement each other for granted. But for the wider world, it seems that an education job still needs to be done.
Where one wins over the other as the primary means of access should always depend on the business case and backhaul considerations. Finance houses and AltNet providers need to make themselves familiar with both technologies or risk a rollout based on a bad business case.
There are pros and cons for each: customers get a level of comfort from fibre in a way that they don’t with wireless because it’s a tangible piece of technology that offers more network throughput. The downside is that it might also involve invasive digging and reinstatement works as well as complicated planning and council permissions.
The long-term value of putting fibre in the ground might be lost if a mobile operator reaches the same rural destination with 5G for a fraction of the investment. Wireless technologies can be deployed much faster and next-generation mobile networks will be able to carry much larger data packets than they did in the past.
AltNet companies building businesses around fibre need to be aware that achieving a return on investment involves more than securing a contract with a local authority. Skills shortage and the role of 5G have to be factored into the plans.
Then there is the challenge of turning a fibre network design into a well-executed build that comes in on budget. But that’s another story…
Visit the fibre services page for more information.
Indigo is on top as a result of its adjusted average annual growth of 42.1 per cent.