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Europeans Ramp FTTH Rollouts

If you're looking for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) hot-spots in Europe, the Netherlands and Slovakia are good places to start.

The Netherlands is already one of the world's leading FTTH nations, according to statistics compiled for the FTTH Council Europe by research house Idate . At the end of 2008 the Netherlands had about 163,000 active FTTH connections (including fiber-to-the-building connections), giving it a penetration rate of nearly 2.4 percent, the 12th highest in the world, and the 7th highest in Europe. (See FTTH Global Ranking Update.)

Now Dutch access infrastructure builder Reggefiber BV is set to help that figure go even higher. It's expanding its open network rollout in the southern province of Brabant with new network construction in the towns of Veldhoven and Laarbeek. (See Reggefiber Expands PacketFront Deal .)

Access equipment vendor PacketFront AB is providing access gear and its BECS operating system for 14,000 ports. This adds to the initial deal announced in February 2008, which covered up to 100,000 connections. (See PacketFront Wins Dutch Deal.)

Reggefiber is a critical player in the Dutch FTTH market, as it recently formed a joint venture with Dutch incumbent carrier KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) for the rollout of fiber access networks across the Netherlands. That joint venture company recently became a stakeholder in the Amsterdam municipal network that's aiming to make the Dutch capital one of the best connected cities in the world. (See Dutch Team Up for FTTH Expansion and KPN, Reggefiber JV Approved.)

With multiple FTTH projects going on, the Netherlands is set to have more than 1 million FTTH homes and an FTTH penetration rate of 13.4 percent by the end of 2013, according to a forecast compiled for the FTTH Council Europe by Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie. (See FTTH Europe: Slow Growth Forecast.)

Further east, in Slovakia, a smaller country with about 1.9 million homes (the Netherlands has about 6.9 million households), incumbent Slovak Telekom has now passed 220,000 homes in 10 cities with its GPON-based fiber access network. The operator, which set aside €66 million (US$83.4 million) to roll out its FTTH network, aims to pass 250,000 households.

The operator, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and markets its fixed-line services using the T-Com brand, hasn't revealed how many takers it has so far for its FTTH service, which offers downlink speeds of up to 70 Mbit/s, but it plans to invest further in its next-generation access network this year to boost coverage.

One catalyst for its rollout is the presence of Orange Slovensko a.s. , a subsidiary of Orange (NYSE: FTE), which has been building out its FTTH network for a few years and which, according to information from Idate, had passed 200,000 homes at the end of 2008. (See Orange Does FTTH in Slovakia.)

But there's also the need for more efficient networks and the sort of access capacity customers are going to need for bandwidth-hungry services like IPTV.

In a press release issued today detailing Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. 's role as a supplier of GPON equipment, Slovak Telekom's senior director for products and services, Thomas Bogdain, noted that "the construction of a nationwide FTTH network forms an important part of T-Com's broadband strategy [and] enables us to reduce network costs and simplify network structure."

And it provides a broadband services migration path for Slovak Telekom's 339,000 DSL customers. The carrier is pushing hard to increase the uptake of its IPTV service, called Magio, which is available to 600,000 homes but has only 35,000 subscribers at present. Customers with an FTTH connection can feed separate IPTV signals to four different TV sets in a single home, according to the operator.

Heavy Reading's Finnie says Slovakia had around 40,000 FTTH connections at the end of 2008, a figure that would give it a penetration rate of around 2 percent. The analyst expects that penetration rate to rise in the coming years, with Slovakia continuing to be one of the region's leading fiber access markets.

He warns, however, that Eastern Europe has been hit particularly hard by the current global economic downturn, and that this could negatively affect future investment decisions.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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