These last two days, I was in Seoul, attending the 5th FTTH Council APAC Annual Conference in Seoul. I still need to digest a lot of what I've seen or heard and follow-up with some people, but it's been really interesting to be confronted to the diversity of situations of a region which is on average the most developed when it comes to next generation access but with great disparities of development.
My overall feeling after the conference was that the Council APAC itself was in transition, reflecting perhaps a generational shift in FTTH plans. Japan and Korea have led the pack for over ten years, and naturally the early council was dominated by representatives of these two countries. Yet the fact that FTTH was happening in Japan and Korea meant that the advocacy role of the council was limited, more so than it is in Europe or the USA.
This year's conference seemed to highlight the fact that Japan and Korea are no longer where efforts are needed, and that the Council's mission needs to shift from a technology focus to a focus on meaning and implications. It's not an easy transition, but I saw ample evidence in Seoul that it was underway.
Highlights of the conference for me included:
- A presentation by NTT that went way beyond sharing the latest numbers and instead highlighted the profound transformation that deploying FTTH has brought upon the company. It was the first time I heard a Telco candidly addressing the transformation that abundant bandwidth drives and the challenges of navigating that transformation,
- On a related topic, the representative from Etisalat mentioned something that I quote here: "The biggest challenge of FTTH deployment is not technology. Technology you solve by throwing money at it. The biggest challenge is changing your employee's mindsets." Again, refreshing to see a service provider admit that and put it front and center,
- Examining the advancement of IDA's plans in Singapore was also interesting, even though the picture that was painted by the officials in presence might have been a little rosy if the conversations heard in the halls and on the booths are too be trusted,
- Hearing for the first time 'from the horse's mouth' about TM's deployment in Kuala Lumpur was very interesting. TM's approach and service offerings seem to have nothing to be ashamed of compared with most of the developed market offerings,
- Hearing repeatedly from Korean officials that they are not content with their achievements was interesting as well, even though the picture of what they are doing to address their insatisfactions was less clear to me. Korea is moving (or intends to move) to a Gbps universal service, but I'm still unclear on how they get there,
- The presentation on the Australian situation was a little frustrating to me and lacked a clear picture of how things are progressing. The enthusiasm still seems to be there, but I feel like a lot of time has been wasted not taking decisions. I hope to be proven wrong in my perception of this. More generally, Australia and New Zealand were noticeably under-represented, to my surprise.
In addition to the great content, I had the pleasure of reconnecting or connecting with people in the region that I have been in touch with for a good while but hadn't seen in a long time, if ever. This includes (but is not limited to) the amazingly polyglottous John Nixon of Light My Fibre fame.
The conference next year will be in New Dehli, India. I sure hope to be able to attend!