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Is mobile backhaul going to be a bigger driver for fiber deployment than fiber to the home (FTTH) in the next few years?
Mobile backhaul has been the predominant driver for fiber deployment over the last couple of years as interest in FTTH continues to wane. For 2011, though, the new buzzword on the street is the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). According to Bruce Campbell, account manager with Vikimatic (a division of the international communications supplier TVC Communications), about 70% of their duct and fiber sales this year have been for BTOP projects, with the rest for mobile backhaul. FTTH sales have been almost nonexistent.
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Thanks to the $4.7 billion in federal stimulus money provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for BTOP, more than 200 projects have been funded to increase broadband access and adoption across the nation. The bulk of BTOP investments awarded—123 grants totaling more than $3.48 billion—are funding the construction or upgrade of approximately 120,000 miles of primarily fiber-based broadband networks.
This trend is expected to continue for the next few years, with most of the fiber deployment coming from BTOP projects and mobile backhaul. Much of the BTOP-funded construction will take two to three years to complete. Even as the BTOP projects begin to wind down, mobile backhaul fiber deployment will continue to increase as the wireless carriers roll out 4G. The new "middle mile" broadband networks may also spark a resurgence in demand for FTTH and other "last mile" technologies.
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