Accelerated growth of fiber-to-the home (FTTH) deployments in recent years has brought residential users a qualitatively different kind of broadband connectivity. Fiber, as a medium, offers practically limitless connectivity, and common FTTH technologies in use today offer much bandwidth and connection quality that can support all current and near-future applications – like 4K video, cloud gaming, XR, and HD video communications. But with fiber becoming commonplace, and mainstream connectivity medium in many geographies, operators now face another challenge – to ensure that their customers’ quality of experience is not impeded by suboptimal in-home connectivity.

Currently, most users access majority of applications at home using wireless connectivity between their devices and in-home CPE. Often, the CPE-generated Wi-Fi signal must penetrate walls (and ceilings and floors in multi-story dwellings) with associated signal weakening and worsened reception; another problem is interference which affects all but completely isolated homes – the worst-case scenario being multi-dwelling units. The end-result of such situation is that the home network is quickly becoming a choke point that can impede home broadband performance. This, then, generates increased customer complaints, lowers net promoter scores (NPSs), and can negatively affect service take-up.

To solve the problem of in-house connectivity, telecom equipment vendors have created the concept of fiber-to-the-room (FTTR), effectively extending the FTTH concept throughout the customer premises. The FTTR concept entails the following:

  • In-home fiber connectivity: In the past, operators and equipment vendors have tried to solve the problem of poor in-home connectivity through various methods, like wireless network extenders, mesh wireless, or power line communications. Each of these methods has offered some degree of improvement but was and is usually limited to supporting bandwidths lower than currently offered by FTTH solutions. The FTTR concept uses optical fiber to connect an in-home central CPE (primary FTTR) with satellite CPEs (edge FTTR), which then supply connectivity to customer devices – thus removing the bandwidth limitation inherent to other methods.
  • Full-speed wireless: FTTR offers operators the method to provide superior in-home connectivity without resorting to extenders, mesh networking, or other methods. The customer devices are always in full line of sight of the wireless access points, and therefore can receive optimal signal strength, resulting in highest possible performance, limited only by the currently used Wi-Fi technology standard. Wi-Fi 6 technology, for example, provides data rates of up to 2Gbps. In the future, the Wi-Fi transfer rates further increase, with the emergence of new Wi-Fi standards.
  • Reduced interference: The above characteristic of FTTR also ensures that the impact of radio interference is also minimized – in-home edge FTTR wireless signal will always be significantly stronger than the signal of interfering access points from neighboring homes or apartments.

The concept of FTTR therefore offers very attractive benefits – especially when coupled with currently deployed 10G PON technologies, like XG(S)-PON, and will become increasingly important as operators start deploying even faster PON technologies. However, operators considering FTTR need to also re-examine the impact this new in-home connectivity technology will bring to their operations and maintenance, and their business model.

  • Deployment considerations: FTTR relies on deploying physical conduits – optical fiber – in customer premises. In the past, this has been a major obstacle that both prevented operators from using legacy technologies like Ethernet or coaxial cabling between rooms in customer premises. Therefore, most techniques for improving in-home connectivity relied either on wireless, or on existing conduits (like PLC). FTTR solutions, however, minimize physical intervention in customer premises using a combination of very thin optical cables and smart deployment techniques allowing mounting of fiber cable along the existing wall and floor edges, and requiring no drilling and destructive work on home building elements. By avoiding construction work, FTTR deployment can be quick, non-invasive, and relatively inexpensive.
  • CSP broadband business model impact: By allowing operators to enhance customer broadband experience, FTTR enables telcos to significantly improve their FTTH business model. Aside from the increased revenue operators can generate from selling FTTR, customers who are able to fully realize the benefits that fiber-based broadband provides will be much more open for adoption of add-one services that require high-performance in-home connectivity. On the operations side, FTTR can help significantly reduce customer complaints, and release call center and tech support staff. Finally, operators deploying FTTR will be able to contract their customers’ superior experience favorably against operators that do not – thus improving the service take-up and improving their service stickiness.  

FTTR therefore represents a highly efficient solution for operators seeking to solve the problem of in-house connectivity performance. Compared to other methods that were used to solve the problem in the past, FTTR is essentially future proof. Since it uses fiber as a medium instead of wireless or copper, the operators can always match FTTR performance to their currently deployed FTTH solution, ensuring customers application performance always remains unimpeded by the home connectivity issues.

At the same time, due to technological advancements in deployment techniques, FTTR is much easier to deploy than legacy wired technologies and keeps physical intervention in customer premises to a minimum, with no destructive construction works involved. This is potentially the greatest catalyst of FTTR adoption since minimizing construction works makes the new technology’s deployment faster, cheaper, and less intrusive. Finally, the FTTR can serve as a powerful complement to operators’ broadband service portfolios, enabling customers to take advantage of the full potential of their broadband connections regardless of their dwelling circumstances. As a consequence, it can improve customer satisfaction with the service, with associated positive effects on improved take-up, reduced churn, sales of add-on services, and improved operator competitive standing.

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