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FTTH Europe: Reality Sinks In

Ray Le Maistre
2/24/2010

LISBON -- FTTH Conference 2010 -- Amongst the cheer created by the some 2,500 people here, fiber access service provider hopefuls wander around the genuinely buzzing show floor checking out the wares of the 100-or-so exhibitors.

But the reality is that FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) just hasn't taken off in Europe in the way people had expected. At the end of 2009 there were just 3.46 million FTTH/FTTB (fiber-to-the-building) users in the whole of Europe, and 900,000 of those were in one country, Russia, according to the latest figures from the FTTH Council Europe , collated by Idate .

(Helpfully, and rightly, the Council doesn't include fiber-to-the-curb in its statistics, as the final connection to the customer is over copper.)

Other than Russia, the only other country with more than 500,000 FTTH/B users is Sweden, with 537,100, giving it an FTTH/B penetration level of 12.2 percent. Lithuania has the highest penetration figure, with nearly 17.7 percent (it had nearly 240,000 FTTH/B users at the end of last year).

By contrast, in Asia/Pacific there were 38 million FTTH/B users at the end of 2009, and 7.6 million in North America.

The slow pace of progress in Europe is frustrating many, and has forced Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie to revise his outlook for European FTTH uptake by the end of 2013 to 11.3 million from his previous 14 million. (See FTTH Fever Hits Europe.)

Even the normally tub-thumping Council is admitting that things could be better. The Council's director general, Hartwig Tauber, admitted today that Europe "is lagging... we have a long way to go."

But there are signs of life. Carsten Storbeck, director of product management for EMEA at ADC Krone , told Light Reading that there are, at last, signs of increasing activity around Europe. (See FT Plans €2B FTTH Spend.)

Serious momentum or not, the vendors are here in force, the majority of them being the fiber access specialists, showing off their cables, splitters, wall mounts, and fiber-laying robots. But there are also some of the main infrastructure players such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). Nokia Networks (which has aspirations in next-generation PON) was here in body but didn't have a presence on the show floor, while Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , surprisingly, was nowhere to be seen.

As well as the pre-show news announcements collated in our coverage yesterday, some companies announced deals, new products, and partnerships here today. Here's a selection of the news announcements:

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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