Building Switzerland's FTTH Network and What it Means for new Entrants

Flashback to 2008, high-speed internet technologies were quickly evolving, but few homes were connected to next-generation fiber-optic technologies, and Switzerland’s fiber penetration rate was falling behind that of other countries. Switzerland desperately wanted to deploy fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), the last mile portion which would ultimately connect the fiber cabling to existing fiber network infrastructure. FTTH connectivity would offer substantial benefits in speed and capacity, paving the way for innovative services of the future. Though promising, it was a difficult proposition at the time as it was expensive for private companies that owned and operated existing copper-based infrastructure to deploy fiber. On top of this, there was no government authority that could regulate or mandate the private sector to deploy fiber.

Prior to 2007, Swisscom, the leading provider of communications and technology services in Switzerland, faced limited competition from its other incumbents such as Sunrise and UPC. Swiss Communications Commission (ComCom) was the first to start the dialogue on accelerating fiber deployments in the country and bring other operators to the table in an effort to foster healthy market competition, ensure that cable operators continued their access to the infrastructure within homes, and to encourage utility companies to maximize their ROI on the existing infrastructure (link). In its press releases, ComCom claimed that the network architecture encouraged competition without duplication, and the model contract was made available for property owners and network operators governing legal and financial aspects of FTTH installation.

Fast forward to 2019-2020, Switzerland is one of the top five fastest-growing markets in Europe in terms of FTTH subscribers (source: IDATE for FTTH Europe). Switzerland has seen massive cooperation amongst incumbents. FTTH deployment is now in ~60 municipalities through incumbent-utility cooperation. In addition, Swisscom and all utilities are offering wholesale access to their FTTH network on L1 and L2. Swiss Fibernet, a utility-owned independent wholesale-only operator that covers about 30–40% of Switzerland, is an emerging single wholesale platform for operators seeking access to L1 or L2.

Recently, Swiss service provider Sunrise has teamed up with rival alternative provider Salt to create a joint venture, Swiss Open Fibre, to deploy FTTH networks across the country (link). The goal is to reach 1.5 million homes passed in the coming five to seven years, for a total investment of up to CHF3 billion (€2.8 billion), and capture new demand in the areas not currently served with Swisscom and existing utilities. The network will focus on underserved non-urban areas, specifically the roughly 30% of Swiss households in suburban and medium density areas.

It is evident that Switzerland is set to benefit from wholesale carriers which consist of multiple stakeholders. But this framework does come with its own set of challenges. Managing connectivity and quality of service (QoS) with a mix of legacy technologies, and leaving subscribers to coordinate between the wholesaler and ISP when support is needed are just a couple of the challenges which can impact a successful FTTH deployment. As operators make the shift to fiber-based services, wholesale fiber providers will certainly have a role to play in helping them get a foothold in the market. For retail ISPs, the most important things they would like to see from their wholesale fiber provider are a web portal or API for provisioning and activating services, coupled with wholesale access network insight to help them identify, triage, and resolve service quality issues faster.

Incognito Software Systems Inc. is a leader in enabling operators around the world to automate the provisioning, activation, and diagnostics of multi-play fiber services across wholesale, B2B and residential business models. Using Incognito’s solutions, operators are able to improve operational efficiency and speed time-to-market for new fiber-based services.

As a leader in fiber service orchestration, Incognito has a proven track record helping leading service providers in the Swiss market accelerate the rollout of fiber-based broadband services to thousands of households with minimal impact on existing systems. Learn how Incognito helped an operator accelerate the deployment of FTTH triple-play services.

Learn about the leading fiber buildout and operational strategies service providers are undertaking in the era of fiber-based IP service delivery.

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