A new study from the Fiber to the Home Council Americas indicates that the number of North American households connected directly into optical fiber networks grew by 13 percent over the past year. The study, which covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, indicates that FTTH reached approximately 900,000 new households since April 2011, which pushes the total number of FTTH homes in North American homes past 8 million.
FTTH services are now available to 19.3 million homes in North America according to the study, which RVA LLC conducted on behalf of the council.
The United States represents by far the greatest portion of the total, about 95 percent. However, the pace in other countries has begun to pick up, the study indicates. Canadian accounts for 3 percent of FTTH connections, with the remaining 2 percent split between Mexico and the Caribbean.
Despite signs that it has slowed its expansion, Verizon remains the continent’s largest FTTH services provider by a wide margin. However, in a sign of the technology’s growing popularity, the number of FTTH network operators in North America is nearing 1,000, the study reveals. Many of these are small and medium-sized incumbent telephone companies, most located in rural and small town areas. Other FTTH participants include competitive broadband companies, municipalities and public electric utilities. With these smaller operators factored in, the majority of FTTH service providers serve fewer than 10,000 subscribers.
Several of these operators have benefited from broadband stimulus money. The RVA survey indicates that, on average, FTTH stimulus projects are 38 percent complete, with indications that many will start connecting subscribers this year. Environmental reviews and heavy demand for fiber optic cable were cited as reasons for the delays.
“The pure numbers of FTTH providers and their diversity is something that is uniquely North American. No other region of the world is seeing this,” said Michael Render, President of RVA.
Meanwhile, 58 percent of FTTH providers reported seeing increased local economic activity as a result of FTTH availability.
“The notion that the upgrade to FTTH can be a catalyst for economic development is precisely what is driving this enormous interest in high-speed fiber we are seeing at the community level across North America,” said Heather Burnett Gold, who recently was named president of the FTTH Council Americas. Civic leaders in communities of all sizes have a sense that more bandwidth means more opportunities for economic progress.
“These latest numbers underscore that phenomenon in two ways – they show that smaller telecoms are continuing to upgrade to FTTH and that many are indeed seeing a positive economic impact in their communities after they deploy,” she added.
The survey also found growing activity among FTTH providers in fiber to the cell tower. There were more than 1500 towers connected by small, single-state providers in 2011.