The Fourth International Summit on China's Optical Communications Industry concluded this past weekend with delegates excited about the potential for "Fiber to the Home," or FTTH, technology in China.

Some experts predict that individual homes in large Chinese cities will have access to FTTH by 2008.

"The price of optical fiber has dropped to less than 100 yuan per kilometer. Cost reduction will help the spread of FTTH," Xu Yu with the research institute of information technology under the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) told Xinhua.

The concept of extending FTTH was considered a possibility over a quarter of a century ago. However, interest in it has run hot and cold over the ensuing years, partially because of the economic issues involved and partially because of the lack of mature technologies to implement FTTH.

The latest round of interest began in 2003 with FTTH deployments in Japan, the United States, Korea, and several European countries. Carriers in China have also begun some FTTH trial runs. Last November, China's first FTTH platform was launched in Wuhan on trial basis.

However, the deployment this time is different: The technology is being applied to practical applications. By the end of 2004, Japan had more 2,000,000 FTTH subscribers, and Europe had approximately 500,000 subscribers. In China, the growth rate of broadband subscribers is high and sustained. This is providing a much firmer and realistic foundation for FTTH deployment.

MII predicts that in the next 5-10 years, funds used for expanding FTTH business will rise from US$5 billion this year to US$22.8 billion worldwide.

By the end of June, China's netizens numbered 103 million, including 53 million broadband users.


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