The number of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre to the building (FTTB) subscribers continues to grow steadily in Europe, according to the latest market research presented at the FTTH Conference 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden. However, the region has a long way to go before it can be considered a mature market.
The total number of FTTH/B subscribers in the European Union increased by 29% during 2013 – substantially faster than the year before. Thirteen countries in the European Union experienced growth in FTTH/B subscribers of greater than 30%, including Spain at 64%, the Netherlands at 43%, and France and Portugal at 41% each.
Europe now has 9.5 million FTTH/B subscribers in total. When countries outside the EU are included – what the FTTH Council Europe calls the EU39 – the growth rate was even faster. Russia alone counts almost 9 million subscribers, of which 1.4 million were added in 2013.
The increase in the number of subscribers (29%) was greater than the expansion in coverage (22%). The FTTH Council Europe says this is a positive sign, because it indicates that consumer awareness and demand for fibre is growing. “It is good news for operators, who all need to see a better return on their investment. It is also good news for end users, because a larger subscriber base will encourage more companies to develop services and applications, and help drive down consumer prices,” the organization said.
The FTTH Council Europe doesn’t consider that its job is done, however. According to analyst firm Heavy Reading, a country only reaches the “fibre maturity” when 20% of its households are FTTH/B subscribers. This threshold was chosen because it represents an economy with a large enough customer base to support the development of new high-speed services and applications. So far only nine countries around the world have reached this threshold and only three of them – Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden – are European.
“We need to do more and I can’t help but feel that some policy makers underestimate the danger of not getting to fibre-to-the-home networks quickly enough,” said Karin Ahl, President of the FTTH Council Europe, in her opening speech at the FTTH Conference. “The world is changing faster and faster. If we look at advanced economies like the United States, then by some measures 70% of the value of their economy is composed of firms that did not exist 30 years ago.
“In this changing world we need more than flexible labour markets and great education systems if we want to keep up. We also need the right infrastructure … If a city or a country doesn’t have the right infrastructure, then investments will be made elsewhere.”
By Pauline Rigby
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