Competitive FTTH fibre-optic deployment in multi-unit developments

ARCEP white paper for people in multi-unit developments (French language)

ARCEP had established a regulation where if a telecommunications operator provides fibre-optic infrastructure in a multi-unit building, this infrastructure must be available to competing operators. This means that each unit owner / tenant must be able to choose whoever provides their super-fast broadband service and avoids the building owner or body corporate determining who provides that service to that building through exclusive “cosy” deals.

Two different methods

Mono-fibre

Each operator runs their fibre-optic infrastructure to a wiring closet where there is a fibre-optic switch that is programmed to run the operator’s service to the customers in that building. Each unit has one fibre-optic connection to that fibre-optic switch.

The service routing would be based on a VLAN or similar setup affecting the main fibre-optic infrastructure in the building. Operators would then have to make sure that the fibre-optic switch is programmed to pass service from their customers’ units to their street-based backbone.

The main advantage of this setup is that there is only one fibre-optic cable needed to be laid to each unit, thus allowing for reduced costs and infrastructure complexity. On the other hand, each operator will have to have access to the fibre-optic switch to make sure they can manage their services.

Multi-fibre

Each operator has their own fibre-optic infrastructure to each of the units, where there is a multi-entry socket for the customer-premises equipment. If a customer wants a particular service, the provider then visits the customer’s unit and connects the fibre for their service to the socket.

If a site can allow two or more optical-network sockets, two or more operators could be terminated in a socket for each of the operators. This may appeal to “geeks” or business customers who want to establish multi-WAN setups for reasons like bandwidth aggregation, load-balancing or fault-tolerance.

The main advantage for operators is that they have control and responsibility of their infrastructure to the customer’s unit, but each service change may require a field visit from the operator’s service staff. Similarly, there would be the issue of complicated infrastructure runs existing in the building, which may affect further infrastructure deployment.

Opportunities and Questions

A major opportunity that may exist for operators who are running optical fibre through a multi-unit building would be to use the cable as a wireline backbone for a cellular base station installed on the roof. This may be relevant to buildings with nine or more storeys and / or operators that run their own mobile telephone or wireless broadband service.

A primary question that may need to be answered is that if a group of broadband service providers share the same infrastructure run, usually as a cost-saving measure or easier entry point for new operators, would they have to create new fibre-optic runs to each unit in a multi-fibre setup or could they continue to share the same infrastructure to the unit’s door.

Another main question concerning the provision of IP-based infrastructure like the fibre-optic infrastructure in multi-unit buildings is how to cater for “all-unit” Internet services. This could range from a Web site with information for all of the units through unit-occupier access to vision from IP-based video-surveillance systems to multi-SSID Wi-Fi access points in common areas with each SSID linking to the home network in each unit. Issues that may have to be answered include VLAN establishment and / or use of anciliary DNS servers that cover only the services that are provisioned in the building and these setups may end up appearing to be complex to anybody that doesn’t have much computing experience.

Conclusion

What is happening with the fibre-optic next-gen broadband services in France, where there is likely to be lively competition, is worth observing, especially for all classes of multi-unit developments, whether all units exist in one building or in many buildings on one piece of land.

The white papers and other material on this topic at the ARCEP web site may then be worth reading by other communications regulators, building authorities, ISPs, building / development owners and management committees.

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