BBWF: Sweden Retains Euro FTTH Top Spot

PARIS -- Broadband World Forum Europe -- More than 10 percent of Sweden's households have a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) or fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) broadband connection, giving it the highest fiber access penetration rate in Europe, according to the latest statistics compiled by Idate for the FTTH Council Europe , released here Monday.

That Sweden, which boasts a 10.9 percent FTTH/B penetration rate (end of June 2009), tops Europe's ranking will come as little surprise -- it held the same position a year ago. Then, though, its FTTH/B penetration rate was 8.28 percent, and it was the clear leader. (See Swedes Top Euro FTTH Ranking and table below.)

Table 1: Europe's FTTH/B Penetration Top 10
European Ranking June 2009 Country Number of FTTH/B subscribers June 2009 Penetration June 2009 Penetration December 2008 Penetration June 2008 Majority architecture
1 Sweden 478,900 10.9% 9.1% 8.28% Equal mix of FTTH and FTTB
2 Norway 204,550 10.2% 9.0% 7.22% FTTH
3 Slovenia 62,000 8.9% 7.3% 4.72% FTTH
4 Andorra 3,315 6.6% 3.0% Not reported FTTH
5 Denmark 143,700 5.7% 3.6% 3.11% FTTH
6 Iceland 6,000 5.6% 4.4% 3.9% FTTH
7 Lithuania 45,000 3.3% 1.7% 0.97% FTTH
8 Netherlands 174,500 2.5% 2.4% 1.43% FTTH
9 Slovakia 54,000 2.5% Not reported 0.67% FTTH
10 Finland 60,120 2.4% 1.9% 1.73% Equal mix of FTTH and FTTB
Source: FTTH Council Europe/Idate

Now, though, Norway is a close second, with a 10.2 percent FTTH/B penetration rate.

As ever, though, the Top 10 list is dominated by the Scandinavian and East European nations, while none of the so-called "major economies" -- France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. -- feature. Thomas Kallstenius, chair of the FTTH Council Europe’s Marketing and Intelligence Committee, and director of product marketing at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s wireline networks business, says the Council "clearly has a lot of work to do" to help promote fiber access rollout in these markets. "Europe needs some stimulus for FTTH," he added at a press briefing here in Paris.

Certainly Europe's fiber access market hasn't achieved anything near its potential, even though, according to Idate's research, there are 233 FTTH/B projects in the region. (Note: Fiber-to-the-curb/cabinet projects that reach the customer using VDSL2 over copper, and fiber-to-the-last-amplifier, or FTTLA, projects undertaken by cable operators such as Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), are not included in Idate's numbers.)

By the end of June, says Idate, there were just more than 2 million subscribers and 13 million homes passed in the "EU 35" countries (the European Union 27 member countries, plus Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.)

The numbers look better when Russia, home to some extensive FTTB projects, is added: 2.8 million subscribers and about 20.5 million homes passed.

In terms of raw subscriber numbers, Russia is the region's clear leader, with 724,000 FTTB subscribers and about 7.5 million homes passed at the end of June this year, followed by Sweden (478,900 subscribers), Italy (about 315,000), France (about 250,000), and Norway (204,550), according to Idate.

But what about the prospects for growth? Kallstenius notes that, in some markets, a lack of clear regulation is holding back developments, while in others a lack of broadband competition means incumbent operators don't feel pressured to invest in fiber access, which is capital intensive. He also bemoans a lack of information in some markets about the perceived benefits of FTTH/B for end users, noting that consumers in the Nordic countries are well educated about fiber access services and pricing, while there is "no such marketing in France and Germany."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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