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TOWARDS AN ACCELERATED FTTH DEPLOYMENT IN MOROCCO

TOWARDS AN ACCELERATED FTTH DEPLOYMENT IN MOROCCO

Recently Huawei presented, during the forum organized by Samena in Dubai on November 19, 2020, hybrid solutions using radio in the transport network, to facilitate the deployment of FTTH in certain places.

Ahmed Khaouja, an ITU expert

 

In all countries, telecommunications played a key role with the advent of the Covid19 crisis. All players in this sector have mobilized to successfully manage the traffic of various users and to reconcile teleworking and distance education activities with those of communication and entertainment. Now more than ever, telecommunications, including FTTH (Fiber to the Home) technology, have become essential to keep the productive sectors active. The lockdown has created a significant increase in traffic and Internet connections. Regarding traffic, and according to IDATE (Institute for Audiovisual and Telecommunications in Europe), there is an increase of total traffic ranging from 13% to 85% in all countries of the world. On average, peak traffic has now reached a new normal, at least 20% higher than peak traffic levels we had before Covid-19.

All over the world and particularly in Morocco, the FTTH deployment, alongside other networks, is now essential to reduce the digital divide and ensure equal access to digital technologies at the national level, notably within large cities as Casablanca, but also between urban agglomerations and the rural world. Even though more and more decision makers are convinced of the need to see optical fiber massively implemented to the subscriber, investments seem to inhibits its deployment. However, we should refer to experts who agree that optical fiber is not in itself the bulk of the investment, but rather it is the civil engineering fragment which is the most important part. This latter represents around 60% of CAPEX.

 To ensure the deployment of FTTH, the government, local authorities and operators will have to work together to reduce this digital divide. Even if it means considering entities dedicated to provide permits specific to very high speed broadband through optical fiber in large regional and local authorities. While fiber would help reduce the new digital divide linked to differences in internet access, its deployment will not happen without government support. Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union recently told Lte magazine (www.lte.ma) it is clear that telecom infrastructure now plays a vital role. In fact, without networks, there can be no services. In this context, we have to find new innovative financing models, able to encourage network operators to deploy infrastructure in regions and markets that are less lucrative and less profitable for telecom operators.Currently, ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) networks have on their own become incapable of meeting high speed demands.At present, fiber optic networks have emerged alongside 5G networks because of their ability to propagate over long distances without signal regeneration, and due to their low latency and their very wide bandwidth.The FTTH network is made up of three subnetworks; the transport network, the distribution network and the connection network. At the forum recently organized by Samena in Dubai on November 19, 2020, the telecom equipment provider Huawei presented hybrid solutions using radio in the transport network, to facilitate the deployment of FTTH in certain locations. These hybrid solutions will only be successfully implemented if we adopt a certain technological neutrality at the distribution network in particular.

The establishment of a good FTTH network involves different actors, such as telecommunications operators, integrators, telecom equipment providers like Huawei, in addition to local or national public authorities. Beyond the current Covid19 crisis, FTTH is nowadays becoming an unavoidable necessity for the promotion of our cities, because it will be an inescapable factor in improving the competitiveness and economic attractiveness of our cities. Thanks to optical fiber, citizens and businesses will be able to benefit from new services as part of the so-called digital transformation, which was previously impossible to achieve, using only copper-based technologies.

 Today, with the advent of FTTH technology, we are able to better democratize very high-speed networks thanks to the installation of optical fiber all over Morocco. Indeed, FTTH technology, which is based on passive couplers, makes it possible to offer businesses or individuals very high speed, thanks to the “point to multipoint” or “point to point” topology and this at increasingly lower prices.

The number of FTTH subscribers worldwide is likely to exceed 600 million by 2025 (or 7.27% of the world’s population by that date). According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), Asian countries are the best equipped. In fact, optical fiber represents around 80% of fixed broadband internet connections in certain Asian countries. On the European continent, Sweden and Spain, among others, belong to the countries where deployment of this technology is the most advanced, with a share in the total of broadband connections exceeding 60%.

Schematic diagram of an FTTH architecture

In Morocco, the deployment of very high speed through optical fiber is provided by the three main operators via FTTH within the framework of the FTTH guidelines set by the National Telecom Regulatory Agency (see decision ANRT / DG / N ° 06/14 of April 16, 2014 on the ANRT website). This decision sets the guidelines for the operational and conventional modalities and rate levels for sharing and pooling of fiber optic network infrastructure to the home (FTTH) in Morocco.

All telecom players in Morocco are planning to boost the deployment of this technology; on the one hand, since the adoption of Law 121-12 in February 2019 and due to the covid19 pandemic on the other hand. This law encourages the sharing of infrastructure and integrates broadband by FTTH into projects that can receive support from the Universal Service Fund (FSU). Today, given that the Internet has become a useful and essential tool for the entire international community, new guidelines of the universal service (SU) mechanisms have been envisaged everywhere in order to integrate high-speed Internet in universal service areas in which inhabitants are also asking for the services offered by the internet giants via FTTH or mobile networks. These residents want to connect to the internet in order to exchange video footage for example. Also, telecom connectivity is a means of attracting investments for rural localities. Indeed, according to the ITU, the crisis linked to COVID-19 has highlighted the inequalities in the digital domain. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently indicated that many families, workers, companies and populations are not being able to access digital technologies and to reap its benefits, pointing to the “risk of a new digital divide”. ICT “has grown substantially in importance by allowing us to keep working, to access healthcare, education, entertainment, news and public announcements and to stay connected with our friends and relatives”, notes ITU.

Today, everyone agrees that optical fiber is the very high-speed technology par excellence which will allow Morocco to catch up on its delay in terms of high-speed internet connection.  

Recommendations

In view of the foregoing developments, several recommendations can be formulated; the following are the most important ones. – To ease procedures for granting authorizations by local authorities for the benefit of telecom operators with regards to installation of optical fiber.- To raise awareness of local authorities which can also play a central role as facilitators for the deployment of FTTH infrastructures, in particular through awareness raising and training.

-To encourage the sharing of infrastructure between telecom operators. Economically, it does not seem logical that each optical local loop operator has its own infrastructure to reach subscribers. Therefore, in addition to other infrastructure sharing that can be considered, the terminal part of fiber networks should also be shared between operators, in order to facilitate competition.

– To consider a synergy between equipment manufacturers and Moroccan companies mastering local circumstances in Morocco, to further accelerate the deployment of FTTH.-To push public companies managing water and electricity networks to facilitate access to passive infrastructure at hand.- To strengthen training in this area, given the specific engineering for the implementation of optical fiber.

– To provide fiscal incentives to boost very high-speed broadband as what has been done in Saudi Arabia and Kenya.

By Ahmed Khaouja, director of PTT Morocco  www.PTT.ma

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