Thursday, 30 April 2009

FTTH: some more pictures of phase 1

Phase 1 is getting fiber to my home and that is now finished. Phase 2 will be hooking me and the rest of the street up to the active equipment. It took a bit longer for me to be hooked up to the network than I expected. I live almost precisely half way the street. The neighbours a couple of doors away to the right see their fibre go to the right. I see my fibre move to the left. The fibres meet up at the other end of the block.

At the end of the day a man from a construction company arrived to fix a damaged muff that encapsulated a traditional PSTN-cable. The man repairing it wasn't too kind about the competences of the fiber diggers. He said he had seen them too often and knew every dig site. At this moment only a small bit of fiber sticksout of the ground near my front door. It still needs to go to my meter closet, where the connections for the telephone, cable, electricty, cold water, warm water and central heating are too. (Almere has a city wide central heating and warm water system.)

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

Breaking the traditional world

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

Finishing the FTTH-build

From Fibre to my Home

nobody will ever read this... so it can be upside down

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Reggefiber to my Home

Reggefiber has reached my home (almost) with their fiber. They are now two doors away from my home, so I expect not to be able to park my car on my own driveway this afternoon. This is part of what is locally known as Almeernet. KPN is currently offering services over it and Online (Deutsche Telekom) will soon too.

I made some pictures yesterday in my street and the neighbouring street. For those not familiar with Almere, The Netherlands. The town was build in what used to be a sea and later on a lake. Like most of The Netherlands the ground consists of clay and sand. Fiber is dug and installed with direct burial. The way Reggefiber goes about the installation is that first they dig the fiber in the street and run it through the front door. 3-4 weeks later someone comes to bring the fiber from the front door to the utilities closet, which most Dutch homes have.

The way they get fiber to the front door is the more interesting bit. It doesn't require digging. Because the soil is so loose, they can use a device (I call it a thumper), that drills itself under the driveway to the front door. This device is operated by compressed air. After this a duct is run from the street to the front door, through which fibre is run.

Enjoy the pictures. I hope I can make some of the installation in house too. In the Picasa webalbum there are some more that I took earlier.

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

From Fibre to my Home

Friday, 10 April 2009

UPC Fiber Power triumphant over KPN FTTH

I'm living in Almere. It's one of the first towns in the Netherlands that gets both FTTH from KPN/Reggefiber as well as UPC's Docsis 3.0 offer Fiber Power. I thought it would be good to compare the offers.

KPN's offer is disapointing. It doesn't give a revolutionary feel. This is not the thing you'll be bragging to the neighbours about.There is no compelling reason to upgrade fiber to from DSL and there is no compelling reason to switch away from UPC.

So KPN's got fiber. Internet isn't symmetrical, the TV offer doesn't have HDTV. KPN's TV offer offers too little channels, too little extra's. None of its offers have anything remotely innovative in them. It's clear KPN regards FTTH as nothing more than a more expensive upgrade from DSL. KPN can't even claim to offer the fastest internet in the country as UPC clearly gets that title. KPN strategy may have made a brilliant move with teaming up with Reggefiber, KPN Marketing sure knows how to mess it all up.

The price of the KPN's silver 50/5 offer at €80 is a bit more friendly than UPC's 60/6 offer at €92,60, but it doesn't offer the same quality TV. KPNs 60/6 offer at €110 is overpriced even if we allow for the Dutch Football League TV-channels.

Kudo's to UPC. It's technology is not up to the level of KPN's. It's expensive, it cheats on its website with only mentioning a €16 charge in the small print, but from personal experience I can say I like it's Royaal digital TV offer and according to the users on this forum its internet offer works as promised.

So what am I going to do? Well, I can't do without the BBC and KPN still can't offer it despite political pressure from the Netherlands on auntie Beeb and a lawsuit in the courts. (UPDATE 14-4-09: It's not KPN's fault that they can't offer BBC. The BBC is to blame here. I do fault KPN for not making the rest of the TV and internet offer better) I like the extra TV series that the Royaal offer has and I can't give my wife less than she currently has. So KPN is out for TV.

I would like to choose KPN's fibre offer. I'm currently on Alice DSL (20mbit/1mbit) and that delivers too little 6mbps with too much hassle (3 times major administrative problems). Moving to KPN for internet and telephony would give me the internet and telephony offer I had before. However at 55 euro and 30 euro for UPC royaal that would bring me to 85 euro a month. Almost as much as UPC fibre Power 60/6 at €92.

What needs to improve
Well call/mail me/twitter me, maybe we can do a strategy session. It is KPN however who is in the hot seat. It needs to create a wow factor for its offer. KPN can up the ante for free by making internet symmetrical. This might have some effects somewhere in its network, but it wouldn't change any of its wholesale transit agreements. KPN could also add a lot more television channels to its offer.It's the one who isn't constrained by technology, so add more analogue and more IP-TV channels. There should be a lot of more free to air channels available.

However if both KPN and UPC are continuing on this level, than price competition is their only option. What we need is innovation. New services on the network. Not that these are going to bring in massive amounts of money, but at this moment there is no compelling reason to switch between the two networks and worse for UPC customers there is no compelling reason to switch to KPN. Both networks could leverage their mobile offer and just add a lot more generic services to make their offer more sticky.

One final thought for KPN, in FTTH penetration is key to your businesscase, not ARPU. I can't fathom what the line of thinking was to market FTTH as DSL, but at 1000 euro per customer in investment, it can't be a good thing that Telfort or Planet DSL still looks like a compelling offer!

All offers compared based on what I can find on the web.
Unfortunately KPN isn't too open about its offer. It requires one to find out where they offer their services, take a random postal code and see if your lucky. When you are lucky, this page contains a lot of information. For UPC I used the publicly available data.

KPN Glasvezel

The offers

This seems to be the whole service offer. You can have:
  • Telephony (unlimited national) and basic TV (40 channels) for €45
  • Internet 3/30 and telephony (unlimited national) for €55
  • Bronze package: Internet 3/30, basic TV (40 channels) and telephony (unlimited national) for €65
  • Silver package: Internet 5/50, TV (70 channels) and telephony (unlimited national) for €80
  • Gold package: Internet 5/50, TV (100 channels) and telephony (unlimited national) for €110
One thing strikes me straight away. The internet offer is styled like a DSL offer. It's asymmetric. KPN invested in P2P Ethernet 100mbit/s up and down, but it doesn't offer it here. Instead it offers fibre like it is some kind of DSL on steroids. There is no internet only package.


KPN's fibre terminates on a network termination box that converts the signal to ethernet (internet and interactive TV/IPTV) and to Coax (analogueTV). To the Ethernet box KPN connects its Experia box a home broadband router with 4 ports ethernet, wifi and connections for 2 telephones. The choice to deliver analogue tv is very interesting as this allows KPN to offer exactly the same usability/look and feel as the cable companies can. One of the major benefits in cable/analogue tv happy Netherlands is that all tv's in the house can receive the analogue signal without the need for extra IP-tv boxes. KPN offers the Motorola 1960 as its IP-TV convertor. It has a hard disk DVR, HDMI and can deliver HDTV.

The television offer
The basic offer is 40 channels analogue tv. This is available over coaxial cable to all tv's in the home and is included in all TV packages. All the channels Dutch people expect from analogue TV are included, like discovery, nat geo, cartoons, MTV, Belgian, German, French, Italian and Turkish channels, except BBC1 and 2.

The digital Bronze TV offer is similar, but with more regional channels and Playboy TV it can be expanded with the plus pack at €7,50. The Silver package adds the plus pack to the mix a lot more digital channels to the mix. The Gold package adds the Dutch football league to the package (normally 10 euro's). All digital TV offers come with "Programma Gemist", the Dutch version of iPlayer and a Video on Demand service that promisses 1000 movies.

I couldn't find any HD-TV channels on offer, which is weird. The Motorola box should be able to carry HD-TV channels.

KPN employs a VoIP platform for its telephony over broadband and this is used here as well. Not very surprising and from personal experience I can say that it works quite well. Free national calling to fixed lines is included. Calling to mobile phones is 17 cents per minute with a 5 cent starting tariff. Calling to neighbouring countries, US, UK is 5 cents per minute. Rest of Europe and Australia and New Zealand is 10 cents. (Interesting, the bronze package of VDSL charges 3,5 cents per minute during the week and is free during the weekend.) A second line is €2,50 per month.

UPC Fibre power
The offers
Important! UPC charges an extra €16,70 as a standard fee for its basic TV-offer. There is no way to get around this charge. Add this to all prices!

UPC's fibre power offer is:
  • 60mbit/s down and 6 mbit/s up for €60,50
  • 120mbit/s down and 10mbit/s up for €80,50
  • the 25mbit/s down and 2.5 mbit/s up offer for €50,50 is comparable to KPN's bronze offer in speed, except that it seems that this one will be replaced by the 60/6 offer. Existing customers get the possibility to switch at no cost.

UPC has a proposition where the cheapest element in a triple play package is free. In general this is the Royaal digital TV offer of €13,50 with DVR. It does seem that UPC delivers the promissed speeds.

The modem is the Cisco EPC 3000.It is a Docsis 3.0 modem and doesn't offer any other functionality, like VoIP or digital TV. In order for it to function correctly installation by a technician is required, as it is very sensitive to signal quality. For telephony a customer will receive a standard Docsis modem, because it seems there are no Docsis 3.0 modems available with integrated VoIP. An end user will therefore receive 2 modems.

Analogue TV is the basis of UPC's offer, it has the 30+ standard channels, including BBC 1 and 2. The digital offer is divided into two options starter and "royaal". The starter pack adds mostly regional channels. The royaal offer adds 40-50 channels including BBC 3 and 4. Next to television channels, there is also a Video on Demand offer available. This includes Programma Gemist (the Dutch iPlayer) and in the royaal offer a lot of on-demand tv-series available for free. (Frasier, dr. Who and Bob the Builder are among them). A DVR can be ordered for an additional €4-5,50 per month. There are more packages to choose from, like specific packages for specific nationalities, or sports (Dutch Football league) and movie channels. HDTV is an extra 9 euros

We're currently using the Royaal with DVR at home and we like it a lot.

UPC's telephony offer is similar to KPN's. They have unlimited calling for €15,50 to national numbers. Calling to mobile is 17 cents and 10 cents starting tariff. International calls start at 5 cents, but seem to be a bit more expensive than KPN's offer. (often 1 cent per minute) An extra line is €7,50 per month.

Two afterthoughts
  1. I'm never going to write a review like this anymore... too exhausting to correctly describe everything in a triple play offer.
  2. I had a look at KPN's VDSL offer. It's even more disapointing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Fiber coming to my Home in Almere (pictures)

In the coming months Fibre will be rolled out in my neighbourhood in Almere, The Netherlands. Yesterday I saw the first dig a few streets from my house. I took some pictures

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Thou shalt not promote wireless broadband for (Dutch) homes

Warning, for those pushing wireless broadband

I just spend the last 5 days without DSL. The only connectivity I had HSDPA through my Nokia E51 and it was ghastly. I should have perfect connectivity, according to my phone I have full bars 3G reception. The problem is 3G. It doesn't work where I live. Or better said, what I live in.

(on wireless your happy with getting a drop)
 I (we) have a Dutch house build in 1999/2000. Great, house, really proud of it. 160m^2, garden in front, garden in the back, 4 bedrooms, big bathroom, attic, garage, well insulated, garden on the south side, semi-semi-detached, Fibre to MY home planned for november this year. BUT 3G signal indoors is just horrible. The reinforced concrete and brick walls, the double glazing, the wooden floors insulated with tin foil it just kills any and all wireless signals in the higher frequency ranges. Indoors I even have trouble getting wifi to work in all rooms. And this is the case in most houses build after 1990 in The Netherlands.

The best throughput I got from using GPRS. Trust me, life isn't fun in the GPRS world. I never want to go back there again. Even Google Search is dreadful on GPRS.

(wired you get water continously)
So please if ever someone promotes wireless as a last mile technology, point them to my blog and show them these two brilliant pictures made by  Robin Eckermann