Cable TV and internet providers in Latin America are concentrating their investments on fiber optics to increase coverage and migrate existing customers to hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks.
“Cable operators, who have delayed [fiber] investment a lot, are now focusing on fiber optics,” Sebastián Cabello, CEO of consultancy SMC+, told BNamericas.
Cabello said that the cable TV and internet companies were updating the different versions of the Docsis technology with the aim of improving their broadband services, but had “reached a limit.”
Companies are preferring to migrate to fiber as the main alternative over other technologies such as fixed wireless access (FWA).
Eduardo Jedruch, regulatory director for Latin America at the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) previously pointed out that cable companies are investing more in fiber optics in the region than telephone companies.
“This country [Argentina] has to be rewired,” Luis Quinelli, telco Sion’s representative in digital infrastructure chamber IDA, said last year, referring to the migration of copper and cable networks to fiber optics, which has been a slow process in Argentina.
According to Cabello, all of Latin America is “two years behind” compared with more developed European countries.
This means that there is a favorable outlook for growth of fiber optics in the region, and the number of homes passed and subscriptions are expected to see compound annual growth of 8.9% and 15.3%, respectively, between 2021 and 2026.
Fiber optics has operational advantages over coaxial cable, since maintenance requirements are minimal, leading to significant cost savings.
Chilean operator Mundo was the first to announce that it had completed the migration of its coaxial network from HFC copper to fiber optics. The latest figures from Chile’s regulator Subtel, for September 2022, indicated that Mundo had close to 1,000 HFC customers and another 700,000 connected via fiber optics.
The Mundo network exceeds 50,000km and it has a 15,000km backbone.
Fiber optics is the main alternative when it comes to adding coverage and cable TV operators also deploy fiber in order to get closer to customers.
Argentina’s top cable TV operator, Telecom, increased its deployment of fiber to the home (FTTH) by 100% last year, according to company data shared with BNamericas in January.
The company arrived with this technology in various localities in Neuquén, Córdoba, Chaco, Santa Fe, Corrientes, Misiones and Buenos Aires provinces, as well as capital Buenos Aires.
“Although the company plans to continue expanding the FTTH network to cover large [provincial] capitals and towns with greater traffic requirements, HFC also continues to evolve, which allows [the company] to provide customers with excellent quality of service, and which will continue to evolve with the different Docsis technologies,” Telecom told BNamericas in an email.
Telecom’s network currently has Docsis 3.1 access technologies in HFC and GPON/XGSPON networks for FTTH. On its HFC and fiber optic network, the company doubled most customers’ download speeds in 2021.
Another case of this is Megacable in Mexico, which is developing its fiber optic network as part of a plan to double the size of the company and reach new parts of the country.
The investments are a complement to a US$450mn project carried out by the firm over 2020 and 2021 with the aim of laying 24,000km of fiber and migrating a “large number of subscribers to fiber optics,” according to the company.
“We have a 2.5-gigabyte GPON network, capable of being migrated to 10 gigabytes. In the HFC areas, we have nodes of 250 houses, which means that there is less active equipment, less noise in the network and, in short, a much more robust network,” Raymundo Fernández Pendones, Megacable’s co-CEO, told BNamericas last year.
At the time, the company claimed to have 25% of its client base on fiber optics.
Large groups such as Millicom and América Móvil are also betting on fiber optics, although they are more cautious when it comes to providing figures.
In October, América Móvil said it would focus on opportunities in the fixed business and will invest in migrating users to fiber optics and modernizing its cable networks to Docsis 3.1.
Millicom also says its priorities include the migration of customers from copper to fiber and deployment of FTTH, although it is also targeting the expansion of its HFC networks.
In 2021, the bulk of the operator’s investments were allocated to the deployment of HFC networks and migration of customers to this technology.