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European fibre roll-outs speed up

European fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-building coverage maintains a positive growth trend, with subscribers increasing by 15% since September 2018

The total number of homes in the EU39 countries passed with fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) has reached nearly 172 million, compared with 160 million in 2018.

That is the top-line finding of research from the FTTH Council Europe, the 2020 Market Panorama, and the latest figures outlining fibre deployment trends in Europe prepared by IDATE. It also found that across the EU39 – the 28 countries of the EU up to the end of 2019 plus Andorra, Belarus, Czechia, Iceland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine – there were now 19 countries counting more than two million homes passed.

The study showed that FTTH/FTTB coverage in Europe was maintaining its positive growth trend to nearly half of total homes and there was overall growth of 15% in the number of fibre broadband subscribers in the EU39 territories since September 2018, with 70.4 million FTTH/FTTB subscribers in September 2019. Russia was still playing a major role in this increase, and the EU28 jointly experienced a 20.9% increase.

The research also found that the coverage of both FTTH and FTTB networks was almost 50% in September 2019. By that month, EU39 had reached 49.9% coverage of FTTH/FTTB networks, while in the EU28 territories it was 39.4%, compared with 46.4% and 36.4%, respectively, in 2018. The FTTH Council Europe said this showed a clear upward trend from the September 2015 figures, when coverage was 39.8% in EU39 and 27.2% in EU28.

The main movers in terms of homes passed in absolute numbers were: France, which increased its total by 3.5 million; Italy, up 1.9 million; and Spain, which raised its total by 1.5 million. The top five countries for annual growth rates in terms of homes passed were: Belgium (up 307% on an annual basis), Ireland (70.4%), Switzerland (69.1%), the UK (50.8%) and Germany (33.5%).

Western Europe saw most subscriber gains, with France adding 1.923 million new FTTH/FTTB subscriptions, and Spain coming second, adding 1.650 million new subscribers. Other countries experienced what the council called an “outstanding” increase in their number of subscribers, including Greece (up 285% annually), Ireland (185%), Switzerland (176%), Belgium (111%) and Italy (45.3%). Iceland was the leading country in terms of FTTH/FTTB penetration, notching a 65.9% rate, followed by Belarus (62.8%) then Sweden (56.8%), which reclaimed third position from Spain (54.3%).

From a technological viewpoint, the FTTH Council Europe said that it was interesting to note that fibre technologies have been evolving continuously over the last few years, with a predominance of FTTH architecture over FTTB (60% versus 40%). So-called altnets were found to be still constituting the largest part of FTTH/FTTB players, with a contribution of about 56% of the total fibre expansion.

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Just over two-fifth of homes were passed by former incumbent operators. The FTTH Council Europe believes this number will also evolve as some of the incumbents have modified their strategy, deploying more FTTH, and are even intensifying copper switch-off.

“Ubiquitous and reliable digital infrastructure has never played such a crucial role as today connecting families, enabling business activities and working from home,” said Erzsébet Fitori, director general of the FTTH Council Europe. “Very high capacity connectivity is not only mission-critical in times of crisis, but will also be fundamental for economic recovery and the transition towards a sustainable, green EU economy.

“Competitive investments in very high capacity networks should therefore remain a high political priority and we look forward to working with the EU institutions, national governments and NRAs towards removing bureaucratic and other barriers from the way of network deployment. Access to very high capacity networks faster and more cost efficiently benefits everyone.”

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