Swisscom touts "fibre suisse" project

DECEMBER 10, 2008 -- Fibre-optic cables have already been laid to neighbourhoods (fibre-to-the-node) and to large companies (fibre-to-the-office), and residential customers and SMEs are next in line, Swisscom confirms. Work has already started in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, with the aim of connecting 100,000 households with fibre-optic cables by the end of 2009.

DECEMBER 10, 2008 -- Swisscom (search for Swisscom) yesterday announced that it is commencing the next stage of its fibre-optic broadband network build out. Fibre-optic cables have already been laid to neighbourhoods (fibre-to-the-node) and to large companies (fibre-to-the-office), and residential customers and SMEs are next in line. Work has already started in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, with the aim of connecting 100,000 households with fibre-optic cables by the end of 2009.

The plan is then to further extend the network in the course of next year to include residential premises in the cities of St. Gallen, Berne, Fribourg, and Lausanne.

The first offerings for residential customers and SMEs will be launched in the first half of 2009. Over the next six years, Swisscom is planning to invest some CHF 8 billion in the Swiss telecommunications and IT infrastructure, with 35% of this sum earmarked for fibre-optic expansion.Since October 2008, Swisscom has been expanding its fibre-optic network to cover residential customers and SMEs, with a view to retaining its leading position in broadband communications, say company representatives. The carrier's existing infrastructure will support this expansion; thanks to investments in the backbone fibre-optic network and the extension of fibre-optic cabling for VDSL distribution to residential neighbourhoods, Swisscom says it already has a dense high-speed network.

For more than ten years now, Swisscom has been providing large companies with fibre-optic networking connectivity. Around one third of corporate customers already use broadband services over the high-speed network, and a total of 12,500 business premises in Switzerland are directly connected via optical fibres provided by Swisscom. Moreover, interest in fibre-optic networks is growing; within the space of one year, Swisscom has seen the number of fibre-optic customers increase by 40%.
Demand for new business applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP), Unified Communications, and video conferencing is driving the need for increasingly higher network capacities, prompting more and more large enterprises to switch from copper to the more efficient fibre-optic network.

Customers benefit from competition

At the end of July, Swisscom invited potential cooperation partners from the telecommunications, cable, and utilities industries to work with it on building the fibre-optic network, with the aim of implementing the network more quickly and cost-effectively in conjunction with several partners. Moreover, this collaboration will generate competition among different types of networks, boosting investment and innovation and maximising the benefits for customers and home owners, says the carrier.

To enable potential cooperation partners to expand their own fibre-optic infrastructure after the construction work has started, Swisscom will be laying several fibres per household in all areas. One fibre will be used by Swisscom, while the others will be made available to the cooperation partners. The multi-fibre model will prevent the creation of a new network monopoly in Switzerland and also meet competitors' requirements for full access to the local loop (copper pairs) as stipulated by the Telecommunications Act.

While laying several fibres per household entails marginally higher investments, it guarantees competition at the technology and service levels. Limiting fibres to one per household would be impractical, says the carrier, since it would endanger the dynamic nature of the market and the technological innovativeness of the telecommunications industry over the next 30 to 50 years.

Swisscom offers partners interested in collaborating on the construction and operation of the fibre-optic network four different cooperation models, in the interests of preventing duplication, saving costs, and accelerating the introduction of broadband networks in Switzerland.

Construction partnership
This cooperation model is aimed in particular at partners with their own ducts, such as electrical utilities or cable network providers. One of the partners takes on responsibility for building the fibre-optic network in a defined region-- for example, a specific district or an entire city. Several fibres are laid, and when the network is completed, each of the other cooperation partners is assigned one fibre. If all the partners' network regions are the same size and are to be shared, no compensatory payment is required.

Investment partnership
This form of cooperation is of interest to partners without their own cable ducts. Network expansion is jointly financed by all the partners. One partner builds the entire network and grants the investor usage rights to the fibres laid.

Rental of individual fibres
Individual fibres are rented by partners who do not wish to invest in network expansion but want to decide themselves on the preferred technical level for controlling the fibre-optic network.

Leasing of transmission services
As with DSL broadband technology, which has long been established on the market, Swisscom also provides reseller offerings for Internet service providers who do not wish to invest in their own infrastructure. These providers can use Swisscom's optical fibres and higher-level network technology.

Swisscom presented its reseller offerings to all Internet service providers at the beginning of November. In the initial phase these non-discriminatory and fair offerings will cover bandwidths of 30 to 50 Mbps for download (receiving data) and up to 10 Mbps for upload (sending data).

During the pilot phase, which starts at the beginning of March and will become a commercial service in autumn 2009, the offerings will focus on the areas in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva that are already equipped with fibre-optic cables. As part of the agreed collaboration, the partners will check the technical implementation and market acceptance of the individual offerings. Internet service providers, including VTX, green, netstream, and init7, are free to design their own end customer and reseller offerings.

Expansion of the fibre-optic network will create the infrastructure required for future products and services aimed at residential customers and SMEs. Such offerings for residential customers and SMEs are scheduled for rollout in the first half of 2009.


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