Gigabit for Villages through AirPON

Hong Kong Telecom (HKT) is deploying the new AirPON breakthrough solution from Huawei to provide Gigabit broadband service to remote villages and old, low-rise residential buildings.

HKT’s Managing Director, Engineering, Peter Lam explained to Developing Telecoms today, during the Huawei AirPON Commercial Release Conference, that since 2012 HKT has been implementing a territory-wide rollout strategy for its ultra-broadband services and is the only quad-play operator in Hong Kong. HKT’s ‘Multiple Services on Multiple Access’ quad-play provides four services to customers: CSL mobile, Netvigator broadband, Now-TV IPTV, and Eye multi-media services.

Multiple Services on Multiple Access is intended to transform HKT from a traditional “dumb-pipe” connectivity business into a content, application and transaction-focused multi-media services provider. Underpinned by the philosophy that content is king, and exclusive content in particular is alluring, HKT’s quad-play platform is designed so that any premium content such as the British Premier league can be viewed by customers through all channels of the operator’s offering.

HKT’s initial plan involved the deployment a territory-wide FTTH service to customer homes and premises. This is a highly CAPEX intensive investment exercise which takes a long time to implement. There are numerous challenges such as obtaining government permits to dig up roads and lay fibre, and it involves lengthy negotiations with the building management office for delivering fibre into customer buildings.

HKT’s FTTH rollout strategy began in 2012 with private and public high-rise buildings in the most densely populated areas and central business districts. This was intended to give the operator high home pass coverage in a short period of time so as to aggressively capture a critical mass of the business opportunities. In the second phase, from 2016, FTTH coverage was extended to the Premier Customer segment which includes the highest income groups, in order to capture the revenue from the high-end market segment.

Moving on from this, the next phase of the roll-out, taking place from 2020 onwards, is to extend Multiple Services on Multiple Access ultra broadband quad-play coverage to the rural, remote and outlaying island areas. This presented a completely different and new set of challenges for HKT.

There are over 700 villages on islands and in rural and remote areas of Hong Kong. Much of the housing in these areas comprises low-rise residential buildings, most of which were built before the Second World War.

It is common in Hong Kong that customer subscribes to a FTTH service for access to broadband Internet and IPTV services through a Wi-Fi router. In a remote environment, laying fibre to a village house is both extremely difficult and costly. Customers there are suffering DSL low speed Internet service.

Huawei’s AirPON is a breakthrough solution to provide Gigabit broadband service to these low-rise residential buildings in old district areas. A key difference with AirPON is that service is provided from roof top access areas instead of from a basement access point. Moreover, the AirPON solution on the roof top can provide Gigabit broadband service to a group of low-rise buildings.

In a typical AirPON service installation the Edge Optical Line Terminal (OLT) and the Outdoor Door Unit (ODU) equipment are installed on the roof top. One side of the Edge OLT equipment is connected to the ODU and the other side is connected to the fibre box, which provides a fibre drop wire for Gigabit broadband services down stairs

To provide AirPON service to this type of building there must be a cell site located nearby - around 250 metres - and within the line of sight of the building. The only building requirement to complete the installation is the provision of a water-proof power socket on the roof top.

The ODU is pre-connected to a metal pole with Ethernet cable and the installation is as simple and quick as a TV antenna installation. The metal pole is installed next to the TV antenna pole and the ODU is pointed to the nearby cell site. The entire AirPON service installation including the fibre drop cabling to the customer premises takes only a couple of hours.

HKT has successfully conducted field trials of the AirPON solution in the remote Yuen Long village area of Hong Kong. Houses in this location are typically three stories high and often located away from the highway and main roads.

During service testing everything worked as expected with download speeds at 400Mbps and upload speeds of 100Mbps. In practical terms this means customers are receiving smooth IPTV performance for HKT Now TV including the electronic program guide, channel switching, and IPTV video content all functioning perfectly.

For HKT, Huawei’s AirPON solution has solved the last mile fibre access problem for remote, rural and island locations. This solution eliminates land ownership issues and the cost of civil works associated with traditional FTTH solutions. Moreover, the AirPON service can be set up and working in just a few hours compared to many weeks and months to make conventional FTTH connections.

With the AirPON solution the configuration is identical to a Passive Optical Network (PON) circuit at customer premises and all internet bandwidth passes through broadband platform, not the mobile platform.

The next step for HKT is to conduct extended field trials to gain more deployment experience. The operator aims to replicate the AirPON solution in other locations including village areas and low rise buildings in urban areas.

HKT believes that installation of PON equipment on roof tops will be suitable for PON deployment in large numbers of old, low rise buildings throughout Hong Kong where it is difficult if not impossible to provide FTTH service on an economic basis. This will enable HKT to extend their quad-play ultra broadband coverage still further and reach all customers.


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