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Steady growth for fibre networks across Europe over next five years

Research from European fibre trade association covering 39 countries shows more than half of total homes now passed with fibre, with FTTH/B roll-out accelerating

A report from the FTTH Council Europe has confirmed the continuous progress of fibre-optic network roll-out across the region, with full-fibre connectivity being a clear priority for EU authorities, national governments and market players across 39 countries in Europe.

Based on the latest available data from September 2021, the industry organisation, which has a mission to advance ubiquitous full fibre-based connectivity to the whole of Europe, found that the total number of homes passed with fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) in the 39 countries totalled nearly 198.4 million homes in September 2021, compared with 176.3 million in September 2020.

The main movers in terms of homes passed in absolute numbers were France (up 4.3 million), the UK (up 3.4 million), Germany (up 2.4 million) and Italy (up 1.5 million). In terms of annual growth rates in homes passed, the list was headed by Belgium, increasing by 109%, then Greece (up 90%), Cyprus (up 83%), the UK (up 80%) and Austria (up 62%). 

The FTTH/B coverage rate in the 39 countries now amounts to 57%, up 4.5%, and coverage rate in the EU27 and the UK reached nearly half of total homes (48.5%), up by 4.6 percentage points on an annual basis. The FTTH Council Europe said this data confirmed the continuous upward trend that has been observed for several years.

The number of FTTH and FTTB subscribers in the EU39 region reached 96 million, with EU27+UK accounting for 60%. The five fastest-growing markets in terms of new subscribers were France (up 3.8 million), Spain (up 1.2 million), Romania (up 1 million), Italy (up 820,000) and the UK (up 765,000). By September 2021, the EU39 FTTH/B take-up rate had risen to 48.5%, up 3.6 percentage points compared with the previous year. The growth was even more rapid in the EU27+UK, where the take-up rate reached 52.4%, up 5.6 percentage points.

Looking at the types of companies that were supplying the networking infrastructures, the study found that alternative internet service providers (ISPs) – altnets – still comprised the largest part of FTTH/B players, with about 57% of the total homes in the EU39 being passed by such firms and about 39% by the incumbent ISPs, with the remaining 4% being municipalities/utilities. Overall, there is a strong trend of acceleration of fibre deployment with a firm commitment to cover both urban and rural areas.

In terms of the homes still to be covered, three countries represented 58% of the total number of households to be covered – Germany with more than 32 million, the UK with more than 21 million and Italy with more than 13 million. The study noted that while these territories had strong copper network infrastructures, they all showed clear signs of progress in 2022.

For the third consecutive year, Iceland topped the European FTTH/B penetration ranking with a 78.4% penetration rate, followed by Spain (68.4%) and Sweden (64.4%). Seven countries passed the 50% penetration rate mark – Iceland, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Norway, Romania and Latvia. Overall, Eastern European and Nordic countries showed relatively higher penetration rates, mainly because of a proactive state intervention favouring fibre expansion.

“The data from the latest Market Panorama confirms that fibre roll-out is steadily advancing at an increasingly fast pace,” said Eric Festraets, president of the FTTH Council Europe. “We can say with confidence that we are on the right track to meet the EU’s ambitious connectivity targets set out by Gigabit Society 2025 and Digital Compass 2030 strategies, yet the current momentum needs to be maintained and for this to happen, support at the political and regulatory level will be key.”

Vincent Garnier, director general of the FTTH Council Europe, added: “The data clearly shows that we are achieving a great progress in terms of fibre roll-out, thus contributing to the twin digital and green transition, which will reshape how Europeans work, live and do business. The full-fibre connectivity will be key to achieve the EU’s ambitious climate and sustainability targets. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic led to more data traffic and more demand, clearly demonstrating the necessity to intensify FTTH deployment and adoption.”  

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