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Winners and losers emerge in Europe's optical fiber race

27 Feb 2013

Russia sees a dramatic 42% increase in FTTH subscriptions, Europe reports “steady” 15% growth, where Lithuania and Sweden lead the way.

European fiber 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, presented during a press conference held during the FTTH Conference 2013 at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre in mid-February.

Russia has emerged as a clear fiber leader in the region. The country added 2.2 million new FTTH subscribers in the second half of 2012 – more than all of Europe’s 27 Member States combined – to reach a grand total of 7.5 million fiber-connected homes. This corresponds to a dramatic increase in FTTH subscribers of more than 42%.

Across the EU27 countries, the number of FTTH subscribers continued to grow at an accelerated rate of 15% in the second half of 2012. During this period, Europe added 820,000 subscribers in total, bringing the number of fiber-connected homes to 6.24 million. Scandinavia, Baltic countries and the Netherlands contributed 26% of these new subscribers, Eastern European economies 33%, and France and Portugal 30%.

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.

Increased penetration

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 fiber nation remains Lithuania, which already has 100% coverage of FTTH and over 31% of homes connected to fiber.

Sweden takes second place in the European FTTH Ranking, with 22.6% of homes having FTTH subscriptions. In the ranking, ten nations can now claim more than 10% 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.

Karin Ahl, President of the FTTH Council Europe, commented, “Eastern Europe and Scandinavian countries have reinforced their position as fiber leaders, and the disparity between the early and late adopters is becoming even more apparent.

“These FTTH leaders are gaining an economic advantage over their less well connected neighbors. Good communications infrastructure helps to retain existing businesses and attract new ones. Fibered-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.”

Many of the major western economies are still dragging their feet over fiber. Italy and Spain remain at the bottom of the FTTH ranking, and once again, Germany and the UK failed to qualify. The number of fiber connected homes in the UK stands at less than 0.1%.

France to invest €20billion

At the London conference, the The FTTH Council Europe also welcomed the announcement by the French government that it would invest €20 billion into ultra-fast broadband infrastructure with a special focus on future-proof fiber in the coming years.

Ahl commented, “Two weeks ago the European Union decided to reduce the broadband budget in the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) from €9 to €1 billion. In doing so, they missed an opportunity to make a strong statement in favour of the importance of broadband and of the Digital Agenda in Europe.

”By reducing the CEF budget, the European governments also took the individual responsibility to ensure a positive investment framework for future-proof fiber broadband in their countries.

”With François Hollande's announcement on 20 February, France made a clear statement that it is willing to take this responsibility. The FTTH Council Europe welcomes this decision and hopes that other EU countries will follow the example of France.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Sacher Lasertechnik GmbHJENOPTIK Light & OpticsDelta Optical Thin Film A/SBristol Instruments, Inc.art Photonics GmbHSPECTROGON ABEdmund Optics
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