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Romtelecom opens the door to ultra-broadband

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By fully utilizing available resources and choosing the GPON+FTTB model, Romtelecom opened the door to ultra-broadband. And it made a one-off investment to support long-term evolution for its network and ensure its success in the future broadband market.

FTTx: The only way to high-speed broadband access

Romania has enjoyed an impressive annual GDP growth rate of over 6% over the past years and reaped dividends of having a very large population of young people. Both factors have explained the country’s booming broadband market. That should have been good news for Romtelecom. However, it was just not the case. Like most incumbent operators, Romtelecom faced a tough situation – fierce competition, an aging network, and a high user churn rate. Due to its relatively slow start in broadband deployment, from 2007 on, Romtelecom had lagged behind other operators in the number of broadband users. Understandably, it was eager to establish its leadership in the broadband market.

Difficulties lay ahead, though. On the one hand, with its original ADSL access based on central offices, Romtelecom simply could not provide competitive broadband and differentiated service. Therefore, FTTx was the only way for the operator to provide high-speed broadband access. On the other hand, FTTx would entail huge investment and a long deployment cycle. Worse, other Romanian operators had kicked off FTTH deployment earlier, which made it more difficult for Romtelecom to gain a competitive edge in the market.

How should the operator best use its limited resources to have the upper hand in competition? Unlike its competitors, Romtelecom did not take the FTTH as the answer, which would otherwise result in the highest CAPEX and the longest deployment cycle. Rather, as a longer-term goal, it went for the FTTx model that was the most suitable for it. While trying to save on CAPEX, Romtelecom found it necessary to preempt its competitors in network deployment and cover high-value regions as quickly as possible. The operator was also convinced that the FTTx network should allow for smooth upgrades so as to meet future demand for access at 100Mbps and even 1Gbps. To this end, based on extensive research and studies, it chose the FTTx model and type of equipment that best suited its needs and would help achieve its goal quickly.

Savings on investment through hybrid deployment model

Various deployment models were available, including FTTH, FTTC and FTTB. After conducting a TCO analysis, Romtelecom decided that reusing the existing infrastructure and selecting an efficient FTTx model would be the best way of saving on investment.

As Romtelecom found out, FTTB could take full advantage of subscriber line resources to eliminate difficulty in FTTH. Through mature VDSL2 technology, FTTB could provide 30 to 50Mbps bandwidth within 300 meters, to address bandwidth insufficiency and failure of massive IPTV service deployment with FTTC. Obviously the suitable solution to cover most users, it was chosen by Romtelecom as the primary model. In newly-built areas and upscale neighborhoods where optical fiber resources were already available, FTTH was deployed to provide 100Mbps bandwidth. With this hybrid model, Romtelecom could make the best of its subscriber line resources, leverage its own advantages, and cut network investments. Also, it could provide a platform for massive IPTV service deployment, greatly improving the competitiveness of Romtelecom as an integrated service provider.

Second, Romtelecom made a strategic decision to select a GPON-based FTTB solution. Compared with the traditional FTTB solution based on Ethernet technology, a GPON network utilizes passive optical splitters for FTTB equipment convergence, eliminating the need to deploy aggregation switches. That not only reduces network layers, but dramatically cuts the cost for cable access of network element nodes and converged optical ports as well. Meanwhile, a passive ODN network does not require power supply, and sites are easy to select, which reduces the deployment difficulty and failure rate. Moreover, FTTH and FTTB can share one ODN network, further saving on investment.

Network deployment speeds up

Though realizing that speed was key to acquiring broadband subscribers and gaining a competitive edge, Romtelecom found that deploying a network quickly was no easy task. To provide high-speed bandwidth, a DSL provider must shorten the distance from the access equipment to user terminals. Therefore, with the FTTB model, access equipment is put in buildings as close to users as possible. Installing new MDU equipment requires approval from the owner committee. As a result, site acquisition is the biggest challenge in FTTB deployment, while it is the prerequisite to quick network deployment.

Romtelecom noticed that a cable connection box in the building could be the ideal site. In fact, in the traditional FTTB solution, “cabinet + MDU equipment” was too big to fit into the box, and noise from the cooling fans might cause complaints from the owners, often resulting in a halt to FTTB deployment. To avoid these problems and realize fast deployment, Romtelecom selected the new model of Huawei’s integrated MDU equipment.

The integrated MDU is of a size that is only half of the traditional MDU. It is so light that it can be mounted by a single person, reducing manpower by more than 50%. In light of cable connection boxes of different shapes, Romtelecom ordered a variety of customized MDUs, including the compact door-hanging type and the integrated wall-hanging type for installation inside the existing cable connection box or by its side. Featuring fully enclosed design and using natural cooling, the new equipment has made zero noise and caused no interference to users around.

Moreover, FTTB can split one DSLAM at the central office into dozens and even hundreds of scattered FTTB MDUs, leading to a sharp rise in the workload of software testing. With its available human resources, Romtelecom could not cope. The operator had to address the issue of local software commissioning before it could achieve quick service delivery. For this reason, it chose Huawei’s FTTB automatic service provisioning solution to eliminate the need for local software commissioning on MDUs.

After installing hardware through the automatic service provisioning solution, Romtelecom could have its MDUs automatically registered and certified with the network administrator, automatically upgrade, configure and download software. And it could even automatically complete service acceptance remotely, dramatically saving on the time for installation. Simply by observing the equipment indicator, its onsite hardware installation engineer could find out whether equipment commissioning was completed, eliminating the need for any software commissioning engineer.

Capturing high-end broadband market

With an efficient FTTx solution, Romtelecom has made fast headway in its broadband network deployment. As of 2010, Romtelecom had deployed an FTTB VDSL2 network covering 400,000 subscribers, well outpacing its competitors. With more than 100,000 broadband subscribers, it grabbed a big chunk of the high-end broadband market.

By taking full advantage of its available resources and selecting the GPON+FTTB model, Romtelecom successfully opened the door to ultra-broadband. The operator did not stop there. It has mapped out a more detailed plan for the protection of existing investments and future evolution.

Romtelecom has planned, in the next three to five years, provide 100Mbps broadband access by upgrading its network to 10GPON+Vectoring DSL, and after that, to provide 1Gbps access by integrating NG PON with new DSL technologies like G.FAST.

With regard to FTTx, the operator has envisaged increasing access bandwidth by five to ten times. Meanwhile, by investing heavily in reusable infrastructure like sites, ODNs, and copper wires, it has made a one-off investment to support long-term evolution for its network and ensure its success in the broadband market over the next five to eight years.

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