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China to Invest $177 Billion Between 2015 and 2017 to Expand Fiber/4G Wireless Broadband Across the Country

China Mobile, China United Network Communications and China Telecom will invest $177 billion to expand fiber optic service and mobile telecommunications infrastructure in China between 2015 to 2017, according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

At least $70 billion will be spent this year alone to add another 80 million fiber to the home connections and expand the latest generation of LTE 4G wireless Internet to more than 1.3 million cell towers and small cells that will cover almost every city in China. In contrast, providers in the United States only spend an average of $30 billion annually on all broadband technologies, only a fraction of that for fiber optic Internet services for residential customers.

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By the end of 2017, every household in a significant-sized Chinese city will be equipped with a minimum of 10Mbps fiber to the home broadband for around $16/mo. First tier cities will get a minimum of 30Mbps Internet speed and second tier cities will receive broadband at a guaranteed speed of at least 20Mbps. Most customers served by China Telecom in Shanghai can already buy speeds up to 200Mbps for about $43 a month.

Chinese providers intend to upgrade their wireless networks to make sure that 4G networks completely cover every urban area as well as even the most rural communities.

85% of Italy Will Get Fiber to the Home Broadband Service Within Six Years

enelItaly’s power utility Enel has offered to help the country build a massive fiber to the home broadband network capable of bringing ultrafast Internet speeds to 85% of the country within six years if it can sort out a potential conflict with Telecom Italia, the country’s largest telecom company.

Enel, still controlled by the Italian government, volunteered its domestic network infrastructure to help install fiber optics more cheaply than Telecom Italia could manage on its own, especially in rural and industrial areas.

The offer is controversial because it could put the new fiber network under public control by using Enel, whereas Telecom Italia is a publicly traded company now majority controlled by Spain’s Telefónica and several Italian banks.

Enel, which is focusing much of its domestic strategy on developing its power distribution grid and smart digital technology, has about 1.2 million kilometers of power lines and 450,000 power distribution cabinets across Italy. Smart grid technology is often dependent on fiber optic communications, so making room for Italy’s Metroweb fiber network seemed easy enough.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is backing the $13.35 billion project under the Metroweb brand, a company partly owned by state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).

telecom italiaSuch a deal could potentially lock out Telecom Italia, which is already upset with the government over ownership issues, technology and its inability to buy into the Metroweb project.

Enel insists their involvement would be “synergistic with what the telecom operators have done and planned,” not in competition with those efforts. But Telecom Italia remains concerned it could be left behind by a project that would likely dominate Italian telecommunications for decades.

This isn’t the first venture into telecommunications Enel has made. The power company earlier launched Wind, the third biggest of Italy’s four mobile network operators, which is today owned by Vimpelcom.

Telecom Italia is widely blamed for Italy’s lagging broadband rankings, having failed to invest in up-to-date network technology because of the company’s high debt and falling revenues. Fewer than 1 percent of Italians with an Internet subscription receive connection speeds of at least 30 megabits per second, according to the Agcom communications authority. That compares with the European average of 21 percent. The Italian government considers anything short of a modern fiber optic network a drag on the country’s competitiveness and wants the network built as fast as possible.

Bell Canada’s Fibe Internet is the Top Netflix Performer in North America; Google Fiber is #2

Although Verizon FiOS retained top honors as the speediest major U.S. ISP according to performance tests conducted by Netflix, Canada’s Bell (BCE) Fibe Internet squeezed past Google Fiber as North America’s top performing ISP for the streaming video provider.

Bell’s fiber optic network delivered an average Netflix stream at 3.64Mbps, compared with 3.63Mbps for Google Fiber. Also performing exceptionally well, Grande Communications, EPB Fiber, CDE Lightband, and Midcontinent Communications. Cox turned in a significant improvement, up from 3.11Mbps last November. But many of Canada’s ISPs outperformed their American counterparts, particularly Bell Aliant, MTS, and Quebec’s Vidéotron.

Globally, both Canada and the United States were embarrassed by better average speeds in the United Kingdom (3.42Mbps) and Switzerland (4.04Mbps). Dragging down the U.S. and Canada are underperforming cable companies, DSL, and slow wireless. Clearwire was the worst performer overall, but telephone company DSL services from AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, Windstream, CenturyLink and FairPoint were also dismal performers.

A complete listing of ISPs rated by Netflix for the month of April in the United States and Canada follows:

UNITED STATES

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CANADA

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Comcast Announces Its New Gigabit Home Gateway for Coax DOCSIS 3.1 Customers, Arriving in 2016

xfinitylogoThe Cable Show (now known as INTX) is often used by the cable industry to announce and preview new products and services, and at this year’s convention in Chicago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts used the occasion to introduce the company’s new DOCSIS 3.1 multi-purpose Home Gateway capable of delivering gigabit speeds over its existing hybrid fiber-coax network.

Apart from Comcast’s intentions to deliver 2Gbps broadband over a new fiber to the home network the company is planning for customers in near its local fiber backbone, the new Gigabit Home Gateway was designed by Comcast engineers in Philadelphia and vendors in Silicon Valley to work on Comcast’s existing coaxial cable network.

Comcast will first need to deploy the next generation standard for delivering broadband over cable networks – DOCSIS 3.1, which can combine several “channels” devoted to broadband service to create a super high-speed online experience. Comcast has spent the past several years moving analog TV channels to digital service, freeing up bandwidth it can devote to faster Internet speeds.

Although Comcast’s 2Gbps fiber service will be a limited offering, its 1Gbps cable broadband service should be available “to virtually all Xfinity customers once the DOCSIS 3.1 networking standard is deployed nationally,” according to Tony Werner, Comcast’s chief technology officer.

In addition to supporting gigabit Internet, the new gateway will support gigabit Wi-Fi, IP video, and integrate Comcast’s existing home security and automation services.

The device will go into production this year with plans to introduce it to consumers sometime in 2016. No pricing details were available.

Fiber to the Press Release: Cox G1GABLAST Gigabit Internet – More Theory Than Reality for Most Cox Customers

Phillip Dampier May 4, 2015 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Cox 4 Comments

Despite a significant advertising campaign, Cox’s gigabit Internet service is more a public relations stunt than reality, with only a tiny number of new housing and apartment/condo complexes wired for the fiber to home service.

The high exposure ad campaign doesn't make sense considering Cox's new service is available to less than 1% of its customers.

The high exposure ad campaign doesn’t make sense considering Cox’s new service is available to less than 1% of its customers.

A comprehensive search of addresses actually qualified for Cox’s G1GABLAST tier of service found less than 1% of Cox customers are able to get the gigabit service.

In Irvine, Calif., G1GABLAST is so rare, the Park Place apartments claim exclusivity of the service in the area. A 578-square foot studio apartment with one bedroom and bathroom starts at $1,705 a month, if interested.

Cox has staged press events at the rare locations where the service has turned up in very high-end housing developments in Phoenix, Ariz., with press releases touting the service’s imminent availability in Las Vegas and Omaha, Neb.

The company claims it will make G1GABLAST available to more than 5,000 homes in Phoenix by the end of this year, and has committed to expand that to 150,000 homes by the end of 2015, but there are growing questions whether Cox will meet those targets.

In Phoenix, an Ahwatukee Foothills homeowner was the company’s first residential gigabit subscriber in Arizona. Cox began rolling the service out in new housing developments where installing fiber is less costly than burying service lines in existing neighborhoods. Now it is focusing on other multi-dwelling units and complexes, and a limited number of existing homes in-between those developments.

In Irvine, Calif., Cox gigabit Internet is available exclusively at one complex - Park Place.

In Irvine, Calif., Cox gigabit Internet is available exclusively at one complex – Park Place.

In Scottsdale, the only confirmed site where Cox offers gigabit service is the barely finished 440-unit San Travesia Luxury Apartment Complex (rent starts at $1,275 a month for an 815 square foot studio apartment).

G1GABLAST was also confirmed to be available in one extremely wealthy enclave in northwestern Las Vegas, where property values range from $6-50 million. Those who can’t afford that real estate can choose one of a handful of more affordable new housing developments in the area featuring properties valued at $500,000 and up.

The most affordable housing where customers will eventually find G1GABLAST later this spring will be high-end apartment complexes and condos in Omaha, Neb.

Further east, Cox will also be installing gigabit service in the Viridian Reserve at Hickory in Chesapeake, Va. Several hundred homes (starting at $373,000) will be the first in Virginia to qualify for the service sometime this year.

A high-priced publicity campaign for the extremely limited rollout of gigabit service would seem counter-intuitive, unless Cox was seeking an improved image of cable speed competitiveness as new entrants promise and deliver gigabit Internet service around the country. Claiming your company offers 1,000Mbps Internet costs a lot less than actually delivering it.

GOP Tries to Slash Rural Broadband Funding in Minnesota: “Wireless/Satellite Broadband is the Future!”

Garofalo

Garofalo

Outrage from Minnesota’s elected officials representing rural districts around the state has embarrassed Minnesota House Republicans into grudgingly restoring a token amount of broadband funding to help small communities get online.

Earlier this month, the GOP majority’s budget proposal completely eliminated broadband development grants, which amounted to $20 million in 2014. Republicans attacked the spending as unnecessary and a wasteful “luxury.” The money was reallocated towards promoting tourism.

Budget point man Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said hardwired Internet access was outdated.

“The future is wireless and satellite Internet,” Garofalo declared, adding these were better, cheaper options for rural Minnesota.

Rural Minnesota strongly disagreed.

The West Central Tribune in Willmar declared the GOP budget proposal very disappointing to everyone in rural Minnesota.

“Rural Minnesota will continue to fall behind in broadband access and, in turn, the critical factors of quality of life, education, economic opportunities, access to health care and many other positive benefits,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Rural Minnesota Broadband: Nothing to write home with a quill pen about.

Rural Minnesota Broadband: Nothing to write home with a quill pen about.

“We are astonished as to why the House would ignore one of the state’s biggest economic development needs,” said Willmar City Council member Audrey Nelsen, a member of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ board. “The lack of high-quality broadband affects communities and regions all across the state.”

“We agree,” the paper declared.

“High-speed Internet service is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity for job and business growth,” said executive director Dan Dorman of the Greater Minnesota Partnership.

House Republicans seem intent on stomping out rural Minnesota’s digital economy. Broadband coverage in these areas is a disgrace: Kandiyohi County is third lowest in Minnesota, at only 13.18 percent, in the percentage of households with access to broadband that meets state-speed goals. Surrounding counties with low access percentages include: Chippewa at 24.47 percent, Yellow Medicine at 25.69, Swift at 30.41, Pope at 31.40 and Renville at 58.29.

In 2013, Gov. Dayton’s Broadband Task Force Report recommended a $100 million infrastructure fund to start addressing the $3.2 billion total investment needed statewide to address this issue. Garofalo seems ready to concede to an $8 million token allocation some Democrats call insulting.

Rep. Tim Mahoney said he believed 10 years of an annual $20 million investment would solve the rural broadband problem in Minnesota in a decade. The St. Paul Democrat believes with the GOP’s budget, it will take forever.

“For them to come up with $8 million is kind of ridiculous,” Mahoney said. “It’s almost a slap in the face.”

Garofalo believes AT&T and Verizon’s forthcoming home wireless broadband solutions will solve Minnesota’s broadband problems, without considering those services are expensive and tightly usage-capped. Satellite Internet is condemned by critics as costly “fraudband,” often speed-throttled and usage capped.

Fiber Internet, in Garofalo’s world view, is “yesterday’s technology,” despite ongoing investments in fiber to the home Internet around the world, including investments from companies including AT&T, Verizon, Google, and others that now offer fiber technology capable of speeds in excess of 1Gbps.

Sober assessments of the different broadband technologies available in Minnesota are already available from the state’s Office of Broadband Development. Garofalo’s budget resolves the ideological conflict between his views and theirs by eliminating the agency.

Garofalo said to save rural broadband, the state government must first kill any plan that might interfere with the private sector.

“The private sector won’t invest if it senses that the government is coming in with something else,” he said.

lousy rural

Without throwing Garofalo totally under the nearest tourist bus, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Jim Knoblach said the state needs rural broadband funding, even if other options such as wireless Internet may be a more efficient way to tackle the problem down the road.

“There are people waiting for broadband now that I think this would help,” the St. Cloud Republican said, supporting the restoration of $8 million in funding.

American Broadband Ripoff: Compare Your Prices With Eight Competing Providers in Bratislava, Slovakia

bratislvaThe largest telecom companies in the United States, their trade associations, and Ajit Pai, one of two Republican commissioners serving at the Federal Communications Commission routinely claim America has the best broadband in the world. From the perspective of providers running to their respective banks to deposit your monthly payment, they might be right. But on virtually every other metric, the United States has some of the most expensive broadband in the world at speeds that would be a gouging embarrassment in other countries.

Slovakia – A Long, Tough History, But Better Broadband than the United States

Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, has existed since the year 907. From the 10th century until just after the end of World War 1, the city (then commonly known by its German name of Pressburg) was part of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian empire. After the “War to End All Wars,” ethnic Czechs and Slovaks jointly formed a democratic Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 which existed peacefully until the Germans arrived in 1938 and renamed part of Czechoslovakia… Germany.

Unfortunately for the Czechs and Slovaks, life didn’t get much easier after the end of World War II. As Stalin sought to create a buffer zone between Germany (and western Europe) and the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, along with most of Eastern Europe, faded behind the Iron Curtain into the Soviet sphere of influence.

The city center of Bratislava

The city center of Bratislava

After decades of deterioration under autocratic rule, the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution of 1989 restored multi-party democracy and Communism was was on its way to being fully extirpated across Europe.

By the time the June 1992 election results were announced, it was clear the country’s constituent Czechs and Slovaks had irreconcilable differences and were headed to national divorce court. On one side, the Czech-oriented Civic Democratic Party, headed by Václav Klaus. On the other, Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, whose aims were obvious based on its party name alone. With the writing on the wall, Klaus and Mečiar managed to work out an agreement on how to divide the country and on Jan. 1, 1993 the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were born.

Since the separation, Slovakia has prospered, and is now recognized to have a high-income advanced economy with one of the fastest growth rates in both the European Union and the OECD. It joined the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2009. Slovakia had to bring its economy up to date after fifty years of Communism. The country had a functioning telecommunications infrastructure, albeit one highly dependent on dilapidated equipment produced in the German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany) and the Soviet Union.

After the Slovak Republic was born, Slovenské Telekomunikácie maintained a monopoly on Slovak telephone lines and telex circuits under the close watch of the Ministry of Transport, Posts and Telecommunications. It took until the year 2000 for economic reforms to allow for the privatization of telecommunications. As was the case in many other central and eastern European countries, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile) won a majority ownership in the company, which is today still known as Slovak Telecom.

The Slovak Broadband Marketplace Today

Slovak-TelekomThe Slovak government insisted that telecommunications networks in the country be competitive and it maintains oversight to make sure monopolies do not develop. It rejected claims that total deregulation and competition alone would spur investment. Slovakia welcomes outside investment, but also makes certain monopoly pricing power cannot develop. As a result, most residents of Bratislava have a choice of up to eight different broadband providers — a mix of cable, telephone, wireless, and satellite providers that all fiercely compete in the consumer and business markets.

Many providers are foreign-owned entities. UPC, Slovakia’s cable operator, is owned by John Malone’s Liberty Global. Slovak Telecom is owned by Germany’s T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom. Tooway is a French company.

300Prices are considerably lower than what American providers charge, although speeds remain somewhat lower than broadband services in Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic States. At one address on Kláštorská, a street of modest single family homes (some in disrepair), these companies were ready to install service:

  • RadioLAN offers 18/1.5Mbps unlimited wireless service for $21.85 a month;
  • UPC offers 300/20Mbps unlimited cable broadband for $30.63 a month;
  • Slovanet offers 10/1Mbps DSL with a 240GB usage cap for $18.56 a month;
  • Swan offers 10.2Mbps/512kbps unlimited DSL for $24.70 a month;
  • Slovak Telecom offers 10/1Mbps DSL with a 240GB usage cap for $21.96 a month;
  • Benestra offers 10/1Mbps DSL with a 4GB per day usage cap for $24.24 a month;
  • Satro offers 9Mbps/768kbps unlimited wireless service for $29.32 a month;
  • Tooway offers 22/6Mbps satellite Internet with a 25GB usage cap for $54.79 a month.

In other parts of the country, two providers are installing competing fiber broadband services. Slovak Telecom is slowly discarding its old copper wire infrastructure in favor of fiber optics, and is already providing 300Mbps service to some residents to better compete with UPC Cable. Some areas can get straight fiber service, others get VDSL, an advanced form of DSL offering higher speeds than traditional DSL. Orange, a provider not available in the immediate area of our sampled home, has already installed its own fiber service to over 100,000 fiber customers and is growing.

In comparison, Comcast sells 105Mbps service in Nashville, Tenn. for $114.95/mo (not including modem fee) with a 300GB monthly usage cap. That is one-third the speed of UPC Cable at nearly four times the cost… if you stay within your allowance. Prices only get higher after that.

Comcast Hints At the Price of Its New 2Gbps ‘Not for Your Average Joe’ Fiber Internet: Around $400 a Month

As Florida wakes up to news that Comcast will deliver its 2Gbps broadband service in the cities of Jacksonville, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, the rest of the country is learning the estimated price of the service, targeted to the “techno-elite.”Comcast-Logo

Cindy Arco, spokeswoman for Comcast in Jacksonville told the Florida Times Union final pricing hasn’t been established yet for 2 Gigabit Pro for Florida, but it likely will be in the range of the highest residential broadband tier, which amounts to $400 a month for 505Mbps.

“It’s the type of thing for early adopters — those people who want to have the latest, newest tech gadget and the latest everything related to tech,” Arco said.

In Florida, the residential customers will need to live within a third of the mile of the fiber optic service lines offered by Comcast.

Arco downplayed the relevance of the arrival of 2Gbps service from Comcast.

“It’s exciting, but it’s not for your average Joe,” Arco said.

Zimbabwe: Fast Broadband is a “Basic Human Right”; Victoria Falls Going Fiber-to-the-Home: 100Mbps Service

zol-logo-newThe two largest telecom companies in Zimbabwe believe broadband access isn’t just an essential utility — it’s a basic human right and they are responding with major upgrade projects that will deliver speedier broadband, sometimes even faster than what most customers in North America can access.

Anything less than fiber-to-the-home service won’t do, according to Tom Tudor, chief marketing officer at Liquid Telecom. The company is expanding its fiber project in Zimbabwe with popular tourist destination Victoria Falls getting a major upgrade. Liquid Telecom believes data caps are incompatible with the concept of bringing the Internet to more people to “participate in, and benefit from, the digital revolution.” Liquid Telecom’s fiber service – Fibroniks, doesn’t have usage limits or hidden gotcha fees.

“Every day we lay new fiber which enables us to deliver what we refer to as ‘The Real Internet’, a superfast service which transforms how people access and share information,” Tudor said.

superfast-fibreAt the outset in Victoria Falls, Fibroniks will offer unlimited use packages up to 100Mbps, with a commitment customers can access whatever they want, whenever they want, at a guaranteed fixed monthly price. Liquid Telecom already supplies fiber service in the capital city of Harare, but Tudor believes getting into smaller communities in the country is essential.

“We believe that internet connectivity is a basic human right and so it is our mission to provide quality broadband to every person and business in Africa,” said Tudor.

It will bring a broadband revolution to Victoria Falls, a community of over 35,000 that has languished with ADSL and last generation wireless services like WiMAX and 3G, which offer speeds typically no higher than 512kbps.

Fibroniks also includes telephone service, which will cost a fraction of what Tel•One, Zimbabwe’s sole fixed landline provider, charges for service. Tel•One has focused most of its investment improving and expanding ADSL service over its existing landline network. Although Tel•One may end up reaching more Zimbabwe citizens faster that Liquid Telecom, the speeds Tel•One provides will be much slower than Liquid Telecom’s Fibroniks.

Liquid Telecom’s other fiber to the home projects are in Zambia, with plans to expand to Kenya, Rwanda, and two other African countries yet to be announced.

Singapore’s Internet Essentials (For the Poor): $4.37/Month for 100Mbps Fiber to the Home + Free Tablet

ida-logoWhile Comcast charges $9.95 a month for 5/1Mbps Internet access for the poor with school-age children, a Singapore ISP charges less than half that amount for 100/100Mbps fiber to the home broadband that includes a free tablet for the income-challenged.

Asia One reports the Home Access Programme was developed to fill a gap created by another program targeting homes with school children. While the NEU PC Bundle Programme provides poor homes with school age children a brand new computer, free software, and free Internet service for three years, the Home Access Programme provides affordable Internet access for childless households earning less than $1383US a month.

Qualifying customers will receive M1’s 100Mbps fiber broadband service, a free Internet router and a 7-inch Alcatel tablet for $4.37US/mo over a two-year contract.

“In Singapore, no one should be left behind by the march of technology,” said Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. “IT usage often begins at home, so the Home Access programme will help lower-income households without Internet access to get connected to high-speed fibre broadband. Whether it is for video conferencing, surfing the Internet or simply maintaining contact with family and friends on social media, these Digital Inclusion initiatives are designed to help all groups to live, learn, play and feel included in a digitally connected Smart Nation.”

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