“Free modem” at risk with fiber?

“Free modem” at risk with fiber?

Some operators may exploit a technicality to affect the modem freedom of subscribers to ftth services. Here, in our investigation, how they are behaving

(photo: Pixabay) Free Modem Alliance has launched a new alarm signal: fiber-to-the-home connectivity services (ftth) could allow some operators to disregard the resolution on the free modem. Wired has carried out a small investigation in this regard and we can confirm that in reality the problem today appears almost non-existent, but tomorrow the increase in the diffusion of ultra-broadband and the greater competition between providers could make the situation more critical.

Agcom's position

Resolution 348/18 / CONS of the Communications Authority (Agcom) established from 31 December 2018 that users "have the right to [...] use equipment terminals of their choice, regardless of the location of the end user or supplier or the location, origin or destination of the information, content, applications or service, through the internet access service ".

On 2 July 2019, following a request for clarification from the operators, Agcom, however, recognized services based on ftth technologies (as well as fixed wireless) as an exception for strictly related issues. you to the devices at stake.

The exception: modem-router and ont

The apartments wired in ftth have a fiber cable that converts the signal - from optical to electrical - it needs an ont (optical network terminal), that is a box with a power supply access, a port for the optical fiber and an ethernet port to be connected to the modem-router.

ont to be connected to the modem-router The Agcom says that "the restriction on the choice of ont is allowed provided that it is not integrated with the router". And then he points out that "if the offer includes an ont integrated with the router, it must always be possible for the user to request the supply and installation of an external ont".

In practice, the operators are allowed to use the box they prefer and then that the modem-router is at the customer's discretion. Free modem secured. With ont integrated directly into the modem-router, on the other hand, the operator should be able (on request) to provide an external version both at the start of the contract and perhaps later in time. Operators who violate this indication of the guarantor obviously risk a sanctioning action. Also because with the latest ruling of the Council of State the margins for maneuver are now reduced to a minimum.

Network architecture with olt and ont in evidence At most there could be some perplexity about the difference between modem-router with internal native ont and one with optional small form-factor pluggable transceiver (SPF) module. In both cases, compatibility problems may arise between ont and olt - the line terminal of the operator that is further upstream on the network - of different manufacturers. Therefore, currently the ideal is always the external ont with ethernet port, unless the issue of interoperability is resolved.

An SPF module installed in the slot

The criticalities

The lawyer Gabriele Fiorentini, coordinator of the Free Modem Alliance, argues that the situation of the free modem today "is not perfect, but certainly good compared to 2018, when the device was totally imposed by the operators". The concern at this stage "mainly concerns ftth" and probably "the exception provided by the guarantor is no longer justified".

In fact, there would be some customers who would have experienced transition problems to their personal modem precisely because of the ont integrated in the new modem-routers. Yes, because if an external device is not supplied, as we said, on the consumer market it is difficult to find all-inclusive solutions or a model with compatible Spf slot.

For the Free Modem Alliance the rule has always been valid that if a device is inside the house and is powered so it must be under user control. Or rather, the customer must have the opportunity to make free purchasing choices.

More or less the same thesis shared by the lawyer Davide Rossi, president of Aires-Confcommercio, the association that brings together the main companies specialized in household appliances and consumer electronics. “Any technical, regulatory or market element that makes a product less interesting is a problem,” says Rossi. "I think that the more the markets are open, the more competition there is, therefore an advantage for consumers and large retailers".

In fact, if an operator is free to impose a component or a device on homes , producers will be forced to compete only in the business market and not in the consumer one. It could be marginal when it comes to ont, but for a modem-router with integrated ont it would like to jeopardize a large share of sales.

The latest Agcom bulletin of 13 July found that ftth lines in Italy they weigh for about 10.6%, but the prospect is that in the next few years they may exceed those in fiber-mixed-copper currently at 48.2%. From this point of view, a modem-router lock could be problematic again.

“I would like a port with a fiber connector on the wall and then total freedom of choice for consumers”, says Fiorentini of Free Modem Alliance. In short, starting to raise awareness on the issue and then putting Agcom in a position to reassess the exceptions.

Rossi di Aires-Confcommercio, on the other hand, demands certainty for those who operate in the market because to sell there are planning operations and lines of wholesale dedicated credit. If there are too many obstacles to place a product, no one has an interest in trying to sell it and the choice for the customer is not only reduced but eliminated. With very serious side effects also on technological competition.

How the operators behave

The active (consumer) ftth lines in the country are about 2.11 million, according to the Agcom bulletin updated with data for March 2021. Of these, 27.4% refer to Fastweb, 23.7% to Vodafone, 22.7% to WindTre and 17.6% to Tim.

The network in fiber mostly belongs to FiberCop (Tim, Fastweb) and Open Fiber. The latter is a wholesale operator, so it offers consumer providers (more than 120 including Tiscali and Vodafone) services that involve the use of its infrastructure. This can take place in off or on mode, a bit like providing only a motorway or a motorway with vehicles to reach the destination.

Dark fiber is normally used by large operators and in this if so, they decide all the equipment to be supplied or not to the end user. The dark fiber, on the other hand, is used by those who do not have on-site infrastructure and therefore the consumer operator finds himself on the ont of Open Fiber and then decides only for the part dedicated to the modem-router. In summary, all operators who use Open Fiber's passive network technically have the possibility of leaving the end user free to choose. They just have to supply the configuration parameters, and this tends to happen all the time now.

But we decided to ask the main ftth operators how they behave.

Tim's answer

Tim confirmed to Wired that it allows all fixed network customers (not just ftth) to freely choose whether to purchase a modem or adopt the one provided by the company, which is also compatible with the networks of other operators. "In case of choice of the modem supplied by Tim to the customer, an end-to-end management of the connectivity service is ensured with the best quality and safety standards", underlines the operator.

And for the ont? "The Tim modem always comes with integrated ont to simplify the configuration of the home system, avoiding the connection of multiple devices," says Tim. However, if the customer decides to rely on his own modem, "the supplied ont is always external".

"Regardless of the modem used, the customer can request the installation of an external ONT at any time and free of charge “.

Fastweb's response

Fastweb told Wired that it is providing its customers with two latest generation modems both with integrated ont, FastGate and Nexxt, on free loan. “However, in the event that a customer wishes to use other modems available on the market, he can do so as required by Agcom resolution no. 348/18 / CONS ", underlines the operator.

" For the use of alternative models Fastweb provides on its website a series of technical indications to facilitate the customer in choosing the device with the aim of maintaining the best performance and performance of the network ".

Those who are certified on ftth technology and want to enjoy the free modem receive a separate external ont device free of charge from Fastweb," without costs and charges for the customer, which replaces the integrated one from the modems supplied by Fastweb “. Then the customer can connect the chosen alternative modem.

Vodafone's reply

Vodafone told Wired that it fully respects the Agcom resolution with every technology, even ftth. Customers can decide to use the modem-router they prefer and in the case of fiber architectures they receive an external ont. All the configuration parameters are then provided on the official website or on the phone.

WindTre's response

WindTre confirmed to Wired that it is supplying its fiber customers with a modem-router with Spf which avoids having a second power supply and an additional lan cable being housed directly in the main device. If a fiber subscriber expresses the intention to use a personal modem-router, WindTre provides the configuration parameters of the services and external ont.

But we are certain of at least one recent case where a consumer wished to use his own modem- router on WindTre fiber service and was forced to contact ConciliaWeb to settle the issue. It was probably an exception.

In conclusion

The spread of ftth services in the country will make the issue of equipment increasingly critical. In Italy, on the consumer market, modem-routers with integrated ont are almost impossible to find, so you have to rely on those of operators or external ont. It is true that these little boxes have a marginal effect on final performance, unlike modem-routers and their wireless components.

However, Aires-Confcommercio legitimately points out that the industrial and commercial sectors need freedom of action. It is therefore to be hoped that this is a transition phase and that Agcom, as it has already foreseen, will return to evaluating the exceptions foreseen for the free modem resolution.

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Agcom Fastweb Free Internet modem Open Fiber Tim globalData.fldTopic = " Agcom, Fastweb, Internet, free modem, Open Fiber, Tim "

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