Beltelecom's Upgrade Path to Fiber Broadband
By Huang Yan
Beltelecom is the largest fixed-line network operator and a major ISP in Belarus. For many years, Beltelecom has built extensive networks, and its backbone fiber networks are interconnected with the backbone networks of neighboring countries. As the largest state-owned telecom company, Beltelecom secures a leading position in fixed-line network services and data transmission services and has a monopoly over international long-haul, internet and backbone access services in Belarus. It provides all mobile operators with undifferentiated operational conditions such as switching and international and domestic roaming.
Beltelecom has approximately 4.3 million fixed-line users and more than 2.5 million broadband user lines including 1.6 million GPON lines and 900,000 ADSL/VDSL lines. With abundant broadband resources, Beltelecom has inherent advantages in IPTV development. After years of operation, Beltelecom has built its IPTV services branded “ZALA”, and the users have exceeded 1.6 million lines and will continue to expand in the future.
Beltelecom has a pressing need to develop broadband services. The PSTN and DSLAM devices Beltelecom built more than a decade ago are obsoleted and outside the suppliers’ warranty period, resulting in a year-on-year increase in Opex. As IPTV develops, the limited bandwidth provided by ADSL can no longer meet the demands for emerging services such as bandwidth-hungry and big video services. Beltelecom’s revenues are declining year by year because of the sharp churn of voice users affected by mobile networks coupled with ruble devaluation. Therefore, Beltelecom urgently needs to develop high value-added services, increase ARPU, and improve its financial status.
With the development of optical fiber communications, Belarus proposed a national NGN development strategy requiring vigorous growth of fiber networks to improve nationwide broadband services. The Belarus Ministry of Communications and Information requires Beltelecom implement this strategic NGN plan. This is another huge challenge to Beltelecom.
Broadband Acceleration Initiative
According to the national NGN plan, Belarus will develop broadband as the nationwide fixed access mode. In response to the national strategy and in keeping up with the fiber-in and copper-out trend, Beltelecom has worked out the strategy to develop an integrated fiber and copper network that can smoothly upgrade its out-of-date networks and increase revenues. Beltelecom plans to have its GPON networks cover 3 million subscribers across the country in 2020 and strives to set a good example for telecom network development in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and even in European countries.
Through prudent analysis, Beltelecom has formulated the dual growth strategy for its networks and services: deploying MSAN on existing networks and FTTH in developed new regions, developing IPTV services for all users, and implementing optimized video operations.
●Stage 1: Deploying GPON-based FTTH for broadband acceleration. After a series of tests and exchanges in 2011, Beltelecom accepted ZTE’s FTTH solutions that can cover key commercial users and high-value areas by deploying fiber to the home. By the end of 2015, Beltelecom had completed the deployment for 350,000 GPON users.
●Stage 2: Deploying the unified MSAN platform for GPON/VDSL/ADSL/POTS access. Considering wide coverage of home users and high costs of ODN construction in some areas, Beltelecom hoped to make use of the existing copper cable resources and keep some of its legacy services. ZTE’s unified MSAN platform provides fiber access to a majority of users while keeping compatibility with existing copper services, which is in line with Beltelecom’s requirements for network element evolution at a lower cost in its entire network lifecycle. In 2015, the MSAN platform passed the strict acceptance tests carried out by Beltelecom. In 2016, Beltelecom chose ZTE as a cooperative partner to build its MSAN project.
The end-to-end design concept of ZTE’s broadband products and solutions can help Beltelecom maintain a leading position in technology evolution and business operations for a long time in the future.
Achieving the Broadband Goal, Creating a Better Future
With outstanding broadband solutions, fast delivery and stable after-sales guarantee, ZTE helped Beltelecom make steady progress towards its goal for fiber broadband development. Since 2011, Beltelecom has developed 1.6 million lines of GPON users. Its broadband and service quality has been considerably improved, which can perfectly support IPTV service deployment and migration. Based on broadband network development, IPTV has become the major revenue source for Beltelecom. The exquisite channel and content design is well suited to the Belarusian needs for cultural life improvement. To address the explosive user growth within a short period of time, Beltelecom has also introduced more value-added services and popular contents to achieve sustainable ARPU growth.
Through successful cooperation with ZTE, Beltelecom has built stable and highly-efficient modernized networks, cementing its monopoly over the fixed-line network market. Through diverse service portfolio solutions, Beltelecom has effectively increased its ARPU from fixed telephony, fixed broadband and IPTV services, significantly optimizing its financial situation.
Beltelecom is an incumbent fixed-line operator, but it is not encumbered by obsolete networks nor even by any conservative development idea. From PSTN to copper-based broadband and to fiber-based broadband, Beltelecom has actively followed the network development trend and has chosen the development strategy suitable for its own conditions. Beltelecom has not only increased its user base and revenue growth, but has also made the Belarusian people and the national economy benefit from technology development. The network development of Beltelecom is an excellent case for the development of incumbent fixed-line operators.