4.4 Fibre in the access network
In the 1980s there was a belief that it was only a matter of time before fibre would be installed in the access network (from individual private customers to the local telephone exchange, also called ‘the last mile’, the ‘local loop’ and, now, the ‘first mile’). Installing ‘fibre to the home’, FTTH, as this has come to be known, was always recognised to be a major undertaking, simply because of the number of links involved. If, however, the revenue from new services enabled by the large bandwidth of optical fibre is sufficient, then telecommunications operators would be able to finance the development. Over the years, therefore, operators have looked for bandwidth-hungry ‘killer applications’ that might justify FTTH. For a while it was hoped that ‘video on demand’ would fulfil that role, and now with the expansion of the Internet there is increasing demand for broadband Internet access. Though there have been a number of trials with FTTH, to date none of them has demonstrated that it is a commercial proposition.