Lattelecom will start offering upgrades to 500 Mbps of its fiber-to-the-home (office)or FTTH service in the second half of November, Raivis Mackevics, the head of Lattelecom's optical technologies unit told this blogger. The current top speed to its around 2 600 FTTH subscribers is 100 Mbps. Another 700 connections are on order.
Lattelecom says just under 25 % of Riga's households (more that 77 500 housing units) will have access to FTTH by year end, with an FTTH build-out to start in the cities of Jelgava and Daugavpils by year end as well.
The slow uptake of FTTH, which in some package deals is priced under Lattelecom's existing DSL services, may reflect the operator's slow and cautious approach with the new technology. Rival cable TV, telecoms and internet service provider IZZI suffered from a Twitter-driven public uproar earlier this year when its 100 Mbps DOCSIS-based high speed internet suffered glitches.
Also, Lattelecom may see FTTH as the last great hope for its IPTV service, which recently chalked up 30 000 subscribers, compared to well over 100 000 subscribers each at Baltcom TV and IZZI, who offer conventional and digital cable TV. FTTH at 500 Mbps is more than adequate to feed several TV sets watching high-definition programming and Lattelecom says multiple watching of different channels will be enabled with its optical internet.
However, viewing habits may be hard to change -- cable has been around since the 1990s, and Latvian viewers will be reluctant to switch, rip out old cables and set-top boxes and adjust to a new assortment of channels. Also, in times of economic crisis, the number of HD flatscreens owned by households is unlikely to rise rapidly, never mind multi-screen households.
As I put it in my Latvian-language blog, Lattelecom's FTTH "beast" isn't loved by very many people yet. Given the chance, of course, I will get the service as soon as it is offered in my downtown (Center) Rīga building. Lattelecom, however, is prioritizing the so-called bedroom areas of Riga with their large, Soviet-era multi-unit high-rises (9 stories is "high"), which makes sense.