Study: 172m Euro FTTH homes

April 23, 2020

The FTTH Council Europe has revealed the 2020 Market Panorama and the latest figures outlining fibre deployment trends in Europe prepared by research institute IDATE.

Market Panorama & key findings:

The total number of homes passed with Fibre to the Home (FTTH) and Fibre to the Building (FTTB) in the EU39 reached nearly 172 million homes compared to 160 million in 2018 with now 19 countries counting more than 2 million homes passed. The main movers in terms of homes passed in absolute numbers are France (+3,5 M), Italy (+1,9 M) and Spain (+1,5 M). The top 5 of the annual growth rates in terms of homes passed is headed by Belgium (+307 per cent), Ireland (+70.4 per cent), Switzerland (+69.1 per cent), United Kingdom (+50.8 per cent) and Germany (33.5 per cent).

The coverage of both FTTH and FTTB networks in September 2019 was almost 50 per cent. By September 2019, EU39 reached a 49.9 per cent coverage of FTTH/B networks while EU28 39.4 per cent, compared to respectively 46.4 per cent and 36.4 per cent in 2018. This shows a clear upward trend from the September 2015 figures when the coverage was at 39.8 per cent in EU39 and 27.2 per cent in EU28.

The number of FTTH and FTTB subscribers in Europe increased by 15.0 per cent in EU39 since September 2018 with 70.4 million FTTH/B subscribers in September 2019. Russia still plays a major role in this increase, however, it is interesting to note that the EU28 experienced a 20.9 per cent increase on its own.

This year, the country adding the most subscribers is located in Western Europe. France added 1.923.000 new FTTH/B subscriptions and Spain came second adding 1.650.820 new FTTH/B subscribers. Other countries also experienced an outstanding increase in their number of subscribers such as Greece (+285 per cent), Ireland (+185 per cent), Switzerland (+176 per cent), Belgium (+111 per cent) and Italy (+45.3 per cent).

By September 2019, the EU39 FTTH/B take-up rate elevated to 40.9 per cent in comparison to the 37.4 per cent rate registered by September 2018. For the second consecutive year, the take-up rate for EU28 surpasses the EU39’s one by reaching 43.3 per cent (as opposed to 38.2 per cent in September 2018).

According to the Council, it is interesting to note that fibre technologies have been continuously evolving during the last few years with a predominance of FTTH architecture over FTTB (60 per cent vs 40 per cent). Alternative Internet Service Providers are still constituting the largest part of FTTH/B players, with a contribution of around 56 per cent of the total fibre expansion. 41 per cent of homes are passed by former incumbent operators. This number will also evolve as some of the latter have modified their strategy deploying more FTTH solutions, migrating from existing copper based and cable-based networks towards fibre and are even intensifying copper switch-off. The role of governments and local authorities is also increasing, either directly by signing agreements with telecom players, or via public funds.

“Ubiquitous and reliable digital infrastructure has never played such a crucial role as today connecting families, enabling business activities and working from home,” stated Erzsébet Fitori, Director General of the FTTH Council Europe. “Very high capacity connectivity is not only mission critical in times of crisis but will also be fundamental for economic recovery and the transition towards a sustainable, green EU economy. Competitive investments in very high capacity networks should, therefore, remain a high political priority and we look forward to working with the EU institutions, national governments and NRAs towards removing bureaucratic and other barriers from the way of network deployment. Access to very high capacity networks faster and more cost efficiently benefits everyone!”

In terms of European FTTH/B Ranking, Iceland dethrones Latvia and tops European FTTH penetration ranking with a 65,9 per cent penetration rate. Latvia lands fifth (53,9 per cent).

Iceland becomes a leader in FTTH/B, championing the ranking followed by Belarus (62,8 per cent). Sweden (56.8 per cent) reclaims the third position from Spain (54.3 per cent) and assumes the last spot on the podium of fibre leaders.

It is worth mentioning that Belgium has significantly stepped up its efforts to deploy fibre with an increase of 307 per cent in FTTH/B homes passed and of 111 per cent in new subscribers. However, in 2020, for the first time in years, no new country has managed to enter the FTTH/B European ranking.

In the German broadband market, FTTH/B currently represents 7 per cent of total broadband connections. The fixed broadband market remains largely dominated by copper-based technologies (52 per cent) and cable-based services. However, the BMVI (Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure) launched a national programme that aims to build a ‘Gigabit Society’ in Germany by 2025.

By September 2019, Germany reached more than 4.1 million homes passed with FTTH/B and nearly 1.35 million FTTH/B subscribers. Though Germany remains quite low in the European ranking with a penetration rate of 3.3 per cent, the number of fibre subscriptions grew by 42 per cent (compared to 18 per cent in September 2018) and the number of homes passed with FTTH/B by 34 per cent (compared to 15 per cent last year).

“The data of this new edition of our Market Panorama confirm the trend that fibre roll-outs are taking place at an increasingly faster pace in Europe.” commented Kees de Waard, President of the FTTH Council Europe. “The implementation of the new European Electronic Communications Code and in particular of its Very-High Capacity Networks provision will be essential to meet the ambitions of a Gigabit connected Society in Europe, of which FTTH/B networks, which are the only future-proof infrastructure, are the foundations.”

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How operators are meeting demand – and more – during COVID 19

By Robin Mersh, CEO of Broadband Forum 

April 15, 2020

Since COVID-19 wreaked devastation on the world, a number of countries have been in lockdown to help reduce the spread of the virus, leading to a record number of people working from home and staying indoors. The impact this has had on broadband networks has been nothing short of remarkable, with double-digit growth reported across the board in quarantined countries.

According to NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, based on data it aggregated from Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, GCI and Midco, downstream peak usage is up 20.1% since March 1. This is likely to be driven by the use of OTT services and gaming downloads, while the increased use of video conferencing apps has seen peak upstream usage surge by 27.7%.

Operators’ response to managing this extra traffic has been quite phenomenal – a testament to the ongoing programs to add capacity and upgrade networks. So exactly how are operators across the globe coping with this spike in demand?

Be prepared

Comcast is among operators to put out individual figures relating to its network usages during the COVID-19 crisis. According to the company’s President of Technology, product and Xperience Tony Werner, peak traffic rose by 32%, with this going as high as 60% in cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. The operator is reviewing network usage every five minutes and runs around 700,000 speeds tests per day across the network.

Despite the huge peak in demand, Werner said this has all been within the capacity of the network, putting this down to Comcast constantly adding bandwidth to facilitate future needs. The operator does this between 12 and 18 months ahead of predicted usage trends which typically show increases of about 40% per year, allowing the operator to stay a step ahead of what has been seen in recent weeks.

Novel network management

Vodafone is another operator which has seen a huge change in behavior for its voice and data traffics, with a 30% increase in internet usage. To overcome these challenges, the operator has changed the way its managing voice and data traffic across its complex network of fiber optic cables, copper wires, base stations, exchanges, masts and antennae. This includes redirecting traffic during busy periods so traffic is spread across the network as opposed to creating bottlenecks.

The operator’s Chief Technology Office Scott Petty explained that of the reasons behind the change is due to where people are accessing the internet. As most people work in cities, the usual traffic surge during the day in these locations particularly near train stations, offices and restaurants. This means less capacity is required in more residential areas. However, COVID-19 has turned this pattern completely on its head, with this trend mostly affecting mobile traffic as less people use work desk phones. To ensure its network can cope with this, Vodafone has added additional big boxes to its core network.

According to Petty, bigger challenges are being presented by Vodafone’s fixed broadband network. The usual peak period for broadband usage is between 8pm and 9pm but as more people are increasingly working from home, have online lessons and watch more streaming sites such as Netflix, the busy period is being extended throughout the day. To combat this, Vodafone is current looking at increasing capacity in its central core network and aggregation zones, as well as at BT exchanges where engineers are increasing the number of links that can be handled.

We’re in this together

Comcast and Vodafone provide just two examples of how operators are copying with the current unprecedented demand and according to the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (etno), operators across the board are working around the clock to ensure networks and the services they run continue . The changes in the patterns of telecoms and internet traffic being seen are all being dealt with seamlessly, thanks to sophisticated and upgraded network architectures.

It is a credit to operators that throughout the COVID-19 crisis, despite the strong increases and changing patterns in data traffic, there has been no significant disruption to broadband across the world.

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