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Fibre roll-outs gather pace in Europe

Number of homes and businesses reached by fibre grows rapidly in 39 leading European territories, with FTTH/B coverage in Europe surpassing more than half the total number of homes

Research from the FTTH Council Europe has revealed that the total number of homes passed with fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) in the EU39 countries reached nearly 182.6 million in September 2020, up just over 10 million over the past year.

The EU39 comprises Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.

In the 2021 Market Panorama outlining fibre deployment trends in Europe, with data prepared by IDATE, the FTTH Council Europe found that FTTH/B coverage in the territories now amounted to more than half the total number of homes.

The study revealed that the main movers in terms of homes passed in absolute numbers were France (up 4.6 million), Italy (up 2.8 million), Germany (up 2.7 million) and the UK (up 1.7 million). The top five in terms of annual growth rate in homes passed were Belgium (up 155% compared with the last survey), Serbia (up 110%), Germany (up 66%), the UK (up 65%) and Ireland (up 49%).

By September 2020, the EU39 countries were found to have reached a 52.5% coverage of FTTH/B networks, while EU27+UK sits at 43.8%, compared to 49.9% and 39.4%, respectively, in 2019. This, said the council, showed a clear upward trend from the September 2015 figures, when the coverage was 39.8% in EU39 and 27.2% in EU27+UK.

In the year since September 2019, the number of FTTH and FTTB subscribers in Europe increased by 16.6% in EU39, with 81.9 million FTTH/B subscribers in September 2020. Russia still plays a major role in this increase, however, and it is interesting to note that the EU27+UK experienced a 20.4% increase on its own.

Over the year surveyed, the country adding the most subscribers was France, with 2.787 million new FTTH/B subscriptions, followed by Russia with 1.681 million new FTTH/B subscribers and Spain with 1.436 million. Other countries seeing significant increases in their number of subscribers were Turkey (up 718,000) and Germany (up 694,000).

By September 2020, the EU39 FTTH/B take-up – the number of subscriptions per homes passed – rose to 44.9%, up nearly two percentage points year on year. For the third consecutive year, the take-up rate for EU27+UK surpassed the EU39’s by reaching 46.9%. It was 43.3% in September 2019.

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Looking at topologies, the FTTH Council Europe found fibre solutions to have been continuously evolving over the last few years, with a predominance of FTTH architecture over FTTB (63% versus 37%). Alternative internet service providers (altnets) still constituted the largest portion of FTTH/B players, with a contribution of about 57% of the total fibre expansion.

The FTTH Council Europe said it was interesting to see that many countries where legacy infrastructure still dominates had modified their strategy deploying more FTTH solutions, migrating from existing copper-based and cable-based networks towards fibre and are even intensifying copper switch-off.

Nevertheless, the study showed that three historically copper-strong countries (the UK, Germany and Italy) accounted for almost three-fifths of homes left to be passed with fibre in the EU27+UK region. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in turn, has demonstrated the necessity of both FTTH deployments and adoption. Governments and local authorities are increasingly involved in digital transformations, introducing revised national programmes, subsidies and relevant policy framework to promote fibre expansion.

“The data of this new edition of our Market Panorama confirms that fibre roll-outs are taking place at an increasingly fast pace in Europe, and the EU is making a very significant – though uneven – progress in meeting its connectivity targets,” said Eric Festraets, president of the FTTH Council Europe. “This year’s report demonstrates that three European economies that have recently intensified their fibre roll-out – Germany, Italy and the UK – still account for almost 60% of the entire remaining homes to be passed in the EU27+UK region.”

The FTTH Council Europe also noted that the telecoms sector, going forward, can play a critical role in Europe’s ability meet its sustainability commitments by reshaping how Europeans work, live and do business.

“As the most sustainable telecommunication infrastructure technology, full-fibre is a prerequisite to achieve the European Green Deal and make the European Union’s economy more sustainable,” said Vincent Garnier, director general of the FTTH Council Europe. “Competitive investments in this technology should, therefore, remain a high political priority and we look forward to working with the EU institutions, national governments and NRAs towards removing barriers in the way of a full-fibre Europe.”

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