“Building a Fiber-Connected World” is the tagline of Broadband Communities magazine, and each year the FTTH Top 100 list recognizes organizations that lead the way in this arena.
Fiber-to-the-home deployment in the United States is at an all-time high. In 2017, the number of U.S. households with access to fiber broadband increased by 4.4 million, and the increase for 2018 will likely be even higher. About 35 million households, or 28 percent of all U.S. households, now have fiber access. Everyone is getting in the game of gigs, it seems – from AT&T, which is on track to pass 14 million homes with fiber by mid-2019, to tiny, rural towns connecting their hundred-odd premises.
It’s no wonder the industry is expanding and the number of companies competing for the Top 100 slots continues to grow. That’s great for the country as a whole, even if it makes life difficult for the editors who assemble this list.
“It’s fascinating to me that the role of the co-ops, municipalities and local utilities originated back in the 1930s to provide electric power to rural areas, and nearly 100 years later, they have assumed another critical mission: bringing high-speed broadband to underserved areas. This time, broadband is vital to rural America’s economic viability.”
– Frank Gine, CEO, ETI Software Solutions
The 2018 FTTH Top 100 list represents the whole fiber-to-the-home ecosystem. Optical fiber and fiber cables; passive equipment for connecting, protecting and managing fiber; and active equipment for sending and receiving signals over fiber are the most basic components of an FTTH network, along with software for planning, setting up and managing networks and for provisioning and billing fiber services. The list contains many companies that design, manufacture and distribute these essential products.
To put these pieces together requires firms that finance, plan, design, engineer, construct and install fiber optic networks, as well as those that make equipment for digging, pushing, pulling and attaching fiber. These, too, are represented on the list. Also included are a variety of organizations that advocate for better broadband or create conditions that make FTTH more profitable.
Finally, there wouldn’t be any fiber to the home if not for the deployers – large and small, private and public, incumbent and competitive – that invest in FTTH networks.
Companies newly added to the list represent a variety of ecosystem niches. In fact, several are creating entirely new niches. TDS Telecom and Adams Telephone Cooperative are incumbent telephone companies, and Adams is now leveraging its FTTH experience to help other small ILECs deploy fiber. Allo Communications and Huntsville Utilities are pioneering new types of public-private partnerships for deploying FTTH, Allo as a private-sector partner and Huntsville Utilities as a public-sector partner. Conexon is a consulting company that specializes in helping electric cooperatives build and operate FTTH networks. FibNet is an integrator that specializes in a new technology it hopes will be a game-changer for deploying fiber in remote areas. ONUG Communications is a design and engineering firm that uses automated tools to optimize fiber network designs. Palmetto Engineering & Consulting, in addition to providing engineering and consulting services, is the developer of a widely used GIS system.
In selecting the FTTH Top 100, the editors looked for organizations that advance the cause of fiber-based broadband by
Deploying networks that are large or ambitious, have innovative business plans or are intended to transform local economies or improve communities’ quality of life
Supplying key hardware, software or services to deployers
Introducing innovative technologies with game-changing potential, even if they have not yet been commercially deployed
Providing key conditions for fiber builds, such as early-stage support or demand aggregation.
To be listed among the FTTH Top 100, an organization may be based anywhere in the world but must do business in North America. Except for broadband service providers, which are inherently local, we give preference to organizations that serve national rather than local markets. Overall size is unimportant, as is corporate form – in addition to for-profit companies, the list includes municipalities, a telephone cooperative and several nonprofits.
Although some organizations on the list focus entirely on fiber to the premises or other fiber-based broadband technologies, most deliver or support a mix of broadband technologies. For some, broadband represents only a small part of their business. In making these selections, the editors considered how important the organizations are to advancing fiber broadband rather than how important broadband is to them.
The FTTH Top 100 list was researched by Marianne Cotter, Rachel Ellner and Kassandra Kania and overseen by editor-in-chief Masha Zager, with recommendations and advice from editor-at-large Steve Ross. To nominate a company for next year’s FTTH Top 100, email masha@bbcmag.com.