LONDON -- FTTH Council Europe 2013 -- Fiber-to-the-home/building connections in Europe are set to more than double in number during the coming five years, according to new market projections commissioned by the FTTH Council Europe.
But even that level of growth won't give the region much of a boost in terms of overall fiber broadband penetration.
According to Heavy Reading research, there were only 16.4 million FTTH/B connections in Europe (43 countries, including Russia and a number of former CIS markets) at the end of 2012. By comparison, the Asia/Pacific region boasted 79 million FTTH/B connections at the end of last year.
But there are signs of growth in Europe. According to market projections made by Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Graham Finnie, the number of FTTH/B connections in Europe will more than double to 41.4 million by the end of 2017.
That represents an upgrade compared with last year's numbers due to strong progress in certain countries such as Bulgaria, Finland and Russia.
But Europe is still very fragmented, with the gap expanding between the countries that are growing fast and those that have little FTTH/B penetration, with some major European markets falling in the latter category, noted Finnie during a presentation here Wednesday afternoon. For example, by the end of 2017, Russia is set to have 13.6 million fiber access connections while Italy will still only have about 750,000.
And while the growth rate is picking up, the numbers still represent a low level of penetration -- if the region does reach 41.4 million FTTH/B connections by the end of 2017, that would still represent a penetration rate of just 13.3 percent.
One of the main issues impeding greater growth and market penetration is the lack of investment from the main, incumbent telcos in many main European markets, according to Finnie.
"A number of incumbents are now investing in vectoring technology for their copper plant ... and that's delaying their fiber investments. Many incumbents are still skeptical about the business case for FTTH, and it's those incumbents that generally drive FTTH/B growth, so if they don't invest there's not much hope for the market overall," noted the Heavy Reading man.
For instance, by 2022 Germany, Italy and the U.K. are not likely to have reached what is regarded as "FTTH maturity" -- that is, having a penetration rate of more than 20 percent of households. By comparison, Japan and South Korea reached that stage in 2007 and even China is set to hit maturity in 2017.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading