Fixed wireless is a “poisonous” albeit "very good" technology that fuels booming data usage, according to the CEO of Orange Poland.
Speaking to European Communications at Broadband World Forum this week, Jean-Francois Fallacher says the emerging tech is “selling well” in areas where copper-based broadband does not deliver speeds that consumers expect.
The operator had 377,000 fixed wireless users at the end of September, out of a total broadband customer base that has grown over 10 percent year-on-year to 2.4 million.
The vast majority of customers still rely on copper-based technology, but 176,000 are on FTTH.
“Fixed wireless is a very good technology but it is poisonous for our network because customers consume a lot [of bandwidth],” Fallacher says of the service, which uses the operator’s LTE spectrum.
As such, the CEO says he wants to prioritise selling fixed wireless to those who cannot get FTTH or VDSL.
With an FTTH/B penetration rate of just 2.5 percent, Poland remains well below the European average of 9.4 percent, according to FTTH Council data from September 2016.
Fallacher confirms the country is very much “at the start” of its fibre journey, but Orange looks well placed having secured the rights to deploy the technology across large parts of Poland.
The European Union's decision to invest in fibre deployment in Poland led to a tender process last year that saw the country divided up into 80 regions.
Orange won 32 tenders – more than any other provider – and is spending around €60 million over the next three years to deploy FTTH to some 400,000 premises.
The EU is offering up around €175 million to subside the build.
Fallacher says TV and convergence are the two use cases that will deliver Orange a return on its fibre investment.
In terms of content, the CEO says recent launches of a new 4K set top box and a dedicated app enabling consumers to watch up to 240 channels on the go means Orange has “nothing to envy cablecos”.
Netflix, set to be available on the operator’s TV service imminently after Orange Group signed a multi-country deal last month, will no doubt boost its popularity further.
Orange Poland’s TV subscriber base has grown from 761,000 to 814,000 in the 12 months to the end of September.
This growth bleeds into the other key driver – convergence.
The opco’s eight-month old quad-play tariff, which offers fibre broadband, fixed and mobile telephony plus TV for €23 per month, is proving popular.
The company had 945,000 converged customers at the end of September – a rise of 57 percent year-on-year.
This pushed fixed broadband revenues up 6.6 percent in Q3 after a 2.2 percent rise in Q2.
Fallacher needs this growth to continue as revenues from all types of fixed services fell 3.8 percent to €802 million in the first nine months of this year.
Worse, mobile services revenues dropped 6.6 percent to €873 million, although mobile equipment sales jumped by 28.7 percent to €211 to soften the blow.
Across the board, Orange Poland has seen sales fall one percent to €1.99 billion.
Fallacher remains convinced that fibre will be the star of the show, even if fixed wireless remains a bitter pill to swallow.