15 MAY 2008 -- New research by consulting firm BroadGroup reveals that dark fibre growth continues to be sustained in European metro markets, but will be faster and more substantial in Central and Eastern Europe.
Research for two new reports -- Dark Fibre Markets in Europe II, and Dark Fibre Markets in Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe -- reveals a contrast in the pace and extent of dark fibre growth across the region.
Re-visiting issues first identified in the BroadGroup study of 2005, the new European study reaffirms the continued expansion of dark fibre in Europe, with steady growth averaging at 8% per annum, continuing through to 2012. The boom and bust approach to new network deployment has vanished, replaced by an air of caution with speculative fibre build out being kept to a minimum and mainly focused on the access part of the network to the customer site in metro markets.
Perhaps most strikingly, the report, which covers 17 country markets, contends that evidence collected in research supports the view that dark fibre is becoming a service of choice for an increasingly large number of companies and is emerging as a marketplace of opportunity, rather than its former image as an arcane and inaccessible part of the network. New players see it as a service to sell to enterprises and other operators, rather than a strategic asset to retain.
In contrast, Central and Eastern Europe and its southern neighbours (26 markets) reveals encouraging signs of growth in deployment and much higher than in Western Europe. Demand drivers are present, new optical hardware and software are available - although apparently at a higher price than in western markets - and even duct space is present, owned largely by railways and utilities.
"The contrast between western markets and those in the east reveals something of the divide," commented Steve Wallage, managing director at BroadGroup Consulting. "Equipment suppliers and operators should be leveraging the current opportunities which will provide strategic assets for the future. However regulators need to move more quickly to open markets to altnets without whom broadband connectivity will leave the significant customer base under served."
Research for the report suggests that in some instances, dark fibre is more prevalently perceived as a tactical deployment, as investment focuses on network upgrades to engage in future triple or quad plays. WiMAX, rather than dark fibre, is also recognised as a cheaper way to bypass the local loop. NRENs are driving demand for dark fibre across the entire region compared to enterprises.
Yet much is forecast to change, and future opportunity for dark fibre will emerge as more strategic. In the first instance, there is a clear need to elevate dark fibre from its perception as a raw unmanaged capacity to a quality longer-term investment that delivers a range of standard and premium managed services.
Where wholesale and NRENs drive market demand in the east, it is the enterprises that will create new growth opportunity in western markets, although location and awareness will remain critical dependencies. In the medium to long term, emerging markets growth will be linked to fibre to support data centre growth, mobile, wholesale and enterprise demand.