Briel on: Fibre or not to fibre to my home?
By Robert Briel

It was a long, long time ago when cable came first to my home. KTA, the Amsterdam city net, was a revelation: the number of channels I could receive tripled – from the two national Dutch public channels to no less than six channels – one from Belgium and three from Germany. Hard to imagine nowadays that this was an exciting moment in the life of a TV viewer, but those were the days…

Just last week, the company laying down the fibre optic cables in my neighbourhood was digging up the pavement. But there was not the excitement I felt when the Amsterdam cable network reached my home. At the moment, I am a UPC customer with dozens of channels, HD, catch-up TV, VOD and not to mention fast broadband access thanks to DOCSIS 3.0. And I have even more TV channels, SD, HD and even 3D, with my satellite dishes pointed at Astra and Eutelsat birds.

The question now is – do I really need more than this? In terms of television choice, there is already more than I can cope with. Faster broadband speed? How much Mbps does a family need? Watching an HD on demand movie? Downloading a game or playing a multi player online game? It’s all easily done – simultaneously – using the old coax cable. Uploading videos to YouTube? Sending a heavy PDF file? It’s all done in seconds.

Of course, in the future, we will all be connected via glass fibre – but at the moment it seems like a super highway with just motorbikes driving on it. The search is on for the killer apps on fibre, but so far none has been found. Yes, there is tele-medicine, home security systems, 2-way video chat in HD – but all these can easily be done on the existing infrastructures.

In order to convince consumers – and believe me, I would be the first to take it – there needs to be a compelling offer that distinguishes it from all other means of transport. The figures of fibre show a cautious take-up: the Dutch FTTH company Reggefiber, owned by investment company Reggeborgh and KPN, passes 696,000 homes – with now 198,000 homes connected. The plan is to potentially reach around 1 million homes by the end of the year and be active in 150 cities.

Television-wise, glass has the absolute advantage – at the moment the Reggefiber nets carry good old analogue TV, digital TV using DVB-C, but it can easily also transport IPTV – all that the same time. It can carry an almost unlimited number of HD channels – there is no shortage of bandwidth. A perfect example of what this can do is the mosaic channel that is available on the GlashartMedia service on the Reggefiber nets: a mosaic channel that shows all linear channels. No wonder the operator is now beefing up its TV offer with a new user interface, apps and new services – because it is probably the TV service that will get the new customers.