European FTTH/B subs hit 59.6 million – report

Created March 21, 2019
News and Business

FTTH/B is growing fast in Europe, according to the latest Market Panorama and forecast data prepared by IDATE for the FTTH Conference 2019. The report reveals that by September 2018, there were more than 59.6 million FTTH/B subscribers in the European region, an increase of 21%, with overall coverage reaching 36.4%. While Italy has the higher growth in homes passed at 43.1%, for the first time, the UK entered the ranking.

The report found that the number of FTTH/B subscribers increased by 15.7% in the top 39 European countries1 since September 2017 with more than 59.6 million FTTH/B subscribers in September 2018. Although Russia, which is included in the group, leads in terms of FTTH/B subscribers in the European region, it has showed a lower growth rate compared to other European countries which are catching up quickly with a 21% growth rate.

In addition, the deployment of both FTTH and FTTB networks has increased significantly, according to IDATE. It found that by September 2018 the estimated coverage2 of FTTH/B reached 46.4% in the 39 group and 36.4% in EU282, which does not include countries such as Russia. This, says IDATE, shows a clear upward trend from September 2015 where the estimated coverage rate was 39% in the EU39 and 27.2% in the EU28.

Spain leads for growth

In the year to September 2018, the country adding the most subscribers was Spain, which added 1,858,743 new FTTH/B subscribers, with France coming second with the addition of 1,480,220. Russia saw its FTTH/B subscriber base increase by 1,256,000 new FTTH/B customers. Other countries also experienced notable increases such as Czechia with 523,950 new subscribers and Italy with 449,637. Italy also saw almost two million more homes passed, from 4,398,435 in September 2017 to 6,295,000 in September 2018 for a total increase of 43.12%.

The take-up rate elevated to 37.4% for EU39 from 34.8% the previous year with a take-up rate for EU28 (38.2%) surpassing the EU39 rate for the first time. Countries like Andorra, Belarus, Belgium, Latvia, Netherlands and Romania experienced a take-up rate surpassing 50%.

Fibre technologies have evolved in recent years and by September 2018, there was a predominance of FTTH architecture over FTTB (56% vs 44%). In the European region, alternative players were the most involved in FTTH/B expansion, with a contribution of around 55% from the total FTTH/B players. Also, governments and local authorities are getting more involved in fibre projects, either directly, by signing agreements with telecom players, or via public funds. The report says it is also worth noting that incumbents in some countries have started to modify their strategy in order to deploy FTTH solutions, instead of continuing the development of legacy copper-based or cable-based networks.

Commenting on the report, Ronan Kelly, President of the FTTH Council said, “These new figures show a momentum that is accelerating over the last few years. Full fibre is the way forward and the results of the Market Panorama provide compelling evidence of this. Fibre expansion is booming in many countries and today more consumers are aware of the benefits of fibre. Our job is not done, however, there is still a long way to go until every citizen and business has access to the benefits of full fibre in Europe.”

UK joins the Global FTTH Ranking

This year, the United Kingdom enters the global ranking for the first time, reaching a modest penetration rate of 1.3% and a take-up rate of 13.1%. FTTH/B subscriptions grew by 83% compared to September 2017 for a total of 369,250 subscribers, and FTTH/B homes passed rose to 22.8% reaching 2,817,000, although these figures are from a very low base.

UK regulator, Ofcom has played a major role in promoting investments in FTTH/B across the country. After reducing the prices of wholesale services from Openreach to encourage investments and competition in the market, Ofcom set out a plan to support full-fibre investment in July 2018. The plan follows the direction set in Ofcom’s 2016 Strategic Review of Digital Communications which is aimed at supporting the UK government’s ambition of 15 million homes to have access to full-fibre broadband by 2025.

While welcoming the initiative, some independent providers in the UK believe Ofcom’s strategy needs some refinement.  Evan Wienburg, CEO of TrueSpeed, a full-fibre provider in the largely rural South West of England says, “The UK’s entry into the FTTH Council’s EU Global ranking for the first time is great news – and a definite step in the right direction towards the government’s vision of achieving full fibre connectivity across the whole of Britain by 2033. In particular, it is a testament to the hard work being undertaken by a raft of smaller, independent providers who, like TrueSpeed, are laying the foundations for our digital future by deploying built-to-last full fibre networks across the country. But more needs to be done. Only by reducing the focus on FTTC and accelerating the pace of full fibre network builds across all infrastructure providers can the UK move up the EU rankings and deliver on the promise of a world-class digital infrastructure.”

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1The EU39 includes Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom

2The EU28 includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

For more information, visit www.ftthconference.eu

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.