FTTH Concerns for Europe

10:45 AM -- It's been a few weeks now since the FTTH Council Europe held its annual conference and exhibition in Copenhagen, where there was a distinct buzz around the show. (See FTTH: Alive & Well in Europe, FTTH Europe: Greece Plans €2B Rollout, and FTTH Europe: ECI Bags GPON Deal.)

But given time to reflect on some of the presentations, especially those by the incumbent operators -- you know, the ones with the CASH -- I'm not sure we Europeans are going to see much in the way of real, widespread fiber access availability in the next five years, or even beyond.

My respected colleague, Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, has dampened his outlook for FTTH rollouts in the region, pointing his fingers of blame at the regulators and the incumbent operators, who mostly want political and financial favors before they'll do anything meaningful. (See FTTH Europe: Slow Growth Forecast.)

But the problems go deeper. Even where there's a collective will amongst most of the relevant parties to make things work and help boost a national or regional economy through the provision of game-changing broadband services, such as there is in the Netherlands, the progress has been slow. And it's not for want of trying, in many cases -- the logistics of getting fiber into someone's home is tricky, and even then there's no guarantee that a service will be bought.

What can be done? It's hard to imagine that many of the national regulators will drag themselves out of their collective torpor and take a leaf out of Arcep 's book: The French regulator has been proactive with regards to FTTH and, after many meetings and negotiations, may have found a solution that will see France emerge as one of the shining lights of European broadband. (See French Test In-Building FTTH and French Do Deal on FTTH.)

Maybe European Commissioner Viviane Reding, who has proven her potential to make significant changes in the European telecom sector during the past few years, can have an impact: The European Commission "is currently preparing a Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks," and is set to issue some guidelines in the coming weeks. Among Reding's aims are to "incentivise investment in NGAs" and "foster competition in the new environment."

Reding could be our best hope for a meaningful breakthrough in Europe's FTTH impasse -- and that says a lot about the market. It's time for a few other individuals and influential bodies to pull a collective finger out and make a difference, otherwise we may all need to look to another continent for job prospects in 20 years time.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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