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Japan FTTH powder keg is exploding

Thu, 10/05/2006 - 8:33am
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

LAS VEGAS - While Verizon has clearly become the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) poster child here in the U.S., deployments of the technology and the number of customers who tap into it are on a much steeper growth curve in Japan.

Demand for higher levels of capacity for apps such as IP video has caused FTTH growth to far outstrip that of DSL in that market, said Hiromichi Shinohara, NTT's director of access network service systems labs, a keynoter here at the fifth annual FTTH Conference & Expo.

Shinohara, speaking on Tuesday, said the Japan market is presently comprised of roughly 14.5 million ADSL users and 6.31 million customers who get services from FTTH networks.

While there remains a wide gap between those groups, the latter is on a fast track to catch up. FTTH in Japan, he said, grew 85 percent in the last year, versus just 3 percent for ADSL. ADSL "stagnation," he said, was clearly present in Japan by the first quarter of 2005.

Much of that growth can be attributed to customer desire for the faster speeds required to handle bandwidth-intensive applications - including IP video -- that are proliferating among Japanese consumers.

This request for higher speeds "opens the FTTH market," Shinohara said. Moreover, speed is driving the data side of FTTH, while competitive pricing is driving the voice side of the equation. Adding telephony to the service results in more attractive pricing in the mix, and marks the first "FTTH booster" in Japan, Shinohara explained.

Video services fed off the FTTH network will also play a key role in Japan, which set to transition off analog broadcast signals by 2011. NTT presently uses an RF-based overlay to deliver broadcast TV channels, which deliver about 60 percent of the schedule in high definition, and uses IPTV to handle services such as video-on-demand and karaoke.

FTTH with video will solve the coming "broadcast divide," Shinohara predicted.

J:COM, NTT's primary cable competitor, will also do its part to bridge that divide. J:COM presently serves north of 2.2 million subscribers and passes 8.1 million homes with service.

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