Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Attracting investors / Attirer les investisseurs

I had an interesting discussion with one of my friends from our old neighborhood the other day. He had heard me mention that I wanted to roll out fiber-to-the-home in St Nom. We talked for about an hour and a half and I explained why the transition to fiber is so important and how I think a small scale project could work in our particular case. I also explained that I thought this could be a good test case for whether the model really will work or not, or if the project could expand at some point.

After we were done speaking he said that he'd be interested in investing in the project. I thought that was really great news, not because I'm looking for investors at the moment, but because he could see the value of the project without being someone involved directly in telecom.

I'm moving forward in steps to put this together. First, I'll work on putting the conduit in the ground in our residence. I won't need investors for that portion. The conduit would likely be a risky part of the investment because there is no guarantee that I will be able to convince an operator to connect with us. Obviously having a conduit for fiber in the ground would pay off one day (at least in terms of connectivity). The big question is how to recover that initial investment. I can take the risk because I'm more interested in learning everything about this than recovering this part of the investment.

However, outside money will likely play a part in the second stage of the project. I may need to raise some money to run fiber between our residence and the exchange in St Nom (where we could potentially interconnect with a number of operators). The numbers here wouldn't be huge - probably in the EUR 40,000 range, but this is where I'd start looking at financing options. Given the willingness of my friend to participate I may consider approaching the people in the residence in becoming co-owners of the fiber between the exchange and our residence. That could be a win-win situation because it would increase their incentive to actually use the line themselves.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How to sell fiber / Comment vendre la fibre

I was recently attending a conference abroad where someone brought up an interesting point that got me thinking. The speaker was saying that we spend too much time trying to sell broadband. Instead, we need to sell people on what they can do with broadband. Essentially users don't buy lines. They buy services.

A lot of my planning recently has been how to convince people in the community that they need fiber. Maybe that's missing the point. I should focus on things they would be able to do with fiber that are not possible with standard ADSL - particularly where we are.

The big question for me (and probably the rest of the telecommunication world) is what are these services? What services could attract a 70-year old couple in the village and make it worth it to pay a little extra for fiber services?