European fibre to the home (FTTH) deployment continues to grow steadily, but the gap between the leaders and laggards is increasing, according to the latest figures from the FTTH Council Europe, revealed during the industry organisation’s FTTH Conference 2013 in London.
Russia has emerged as a clear fibre leader in the region. The country added 2.2 million new FTTH subscribers in the second half of 2012 – more than all of the 27 Member States of the European Union combined – to reach a grand total of 7.5 million fibre-connected homes. This corresponds to a dramatic increase in FTTH subscribers of more than 42 per cent.
Across the EU27 countries, the number of FTTH subscribers continued to grow at an accelerated rate of 15 per cent in the second half of 2012. During this period, Europe added 820,000 subscribers in total, bringing the number of fibre-connected homes to 6.24 million. Scandinavia, Baltic countries and the Netherlands contributed 26 per cent of these new subscribers, Eastern European economies 33 per cent, and France and Portugal 30 per cent.
The top five ‘dynamic’ economies, where not only subscriber growth in the past year was high but also where new 2012 subscribers represented the highest proportion of total subscriber at end-2012 were Turkey, Ukraine, Spain, Bulgaria and Russia. In Turkey, subscribers more than doubled in the last year. Spain, new entrant in the FTTH ranking since June 2012, also confirmed its dynamism.
In terms of household penetration, the dominant fibre nation remains Lithuania, which already has 100 per cent coverage of FTTH and over 31 per cent of homes connected to fibre. Sweden takes second place in the European FTTH Ranking, with 22.6 per cent of homes having FTTH subscriptions. In the ranking, 10 nations can now claim more than 10 per cent FTTH penetration, up from seven in June 2012. In order from the top they are Lithuania, Sweden, Bulgaria, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark and Portugal.
“Eastern Europe and Scandinavian countries have reinforced their position as fibre leaders, and the disparity between the early and late adopters is becoming even more apparent,” said Karin Ahl, President of the FTTH Council Europe. “These FTTH leaders are gaining an economic advantage over their less well-connected neighbours. Good communications infrastructure helps to retain existing businesses and attract new ones. Fibred-up nations can make a head start on deploying new services like remote health care and smart grid technologies. Countries that delay the roll out of FTTH are looking at a serious lost opportunity to prepare for their economic future.”
According to the FTTH Council, many of the major western economies are still dragging their feet over fibre. Italy and Spain remain at the bottom of the FTTH ranking, and once again, Germany and the UK failed to qualify. The number of fibre connected homes in the UK stands at less than 0.1 per cent
The FTTH Market Panorama, which is updated twice a year by IDATE for the FTTH Council Europe, records the number of subscribers in each country across the continent of Europe, and ranks them according to the percentage of homes taking a direct fibre connection. The panorama includes both FTTH and fibre to the building or FTTB, an approach suited to apartment blocks where the building’s existing cabling can be used to make the final connection to the customer.
Ahl used her welcome address to delegates to highlight the importance of policy-makers in ensuring effective deployment. “Policies matter,” she declared “Countries are choosing to be FTTH or FTTC (in the Olympics that would mean gold or silver) and policy makers can and will continue to affect that business decision. Operators do not need an affirmation by policy makers of what could happen anyway. If there are to be policy interventions, then surely they must be about delivering a longer-term vision that supports the needs of Europe, not necessarily in terms of the telecom sector per se, but rather in terms of broader economic and societal needs. We are actively working to try to drive some of these issues but changing the ingrained short-termism of some operators and governments is a major challenge. We need to address this!”