FTTH covers just 22% of EU rural households – report

New report from FTTH Council Europe shows that overall deployment is progressing rapidly, but rural coverage remains a challenge.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

September 15, 2021

3 Min Read
FTTH covers just 22% of EU rural households – report

The slow pace of fiber network deployments in rural regions of the world is a well recognized problem, and calls are frequently made for measures that would help drive rollout in less populated areas.

The FTTH Council Europe has just published a new report that outlines for the first time the degree to which rural fiber-to-the-home/building (FTTH/B) coverage is still lagging behind more densely populated areas in the European Union (EU).

Indeed, the industry organization asserts that only 22% of rural inhabitants in the EU are currently served with full-fiber connectivity, compared to 45% for all territories in the 27 countries in the EU plus the United Kingdom (EU27+UK).

Figure 1: Halfway up the stairs: Italy is one of the countries singled out as having greatest potential for overall fiber growth. Halfway up the stairs: Italy is one of the countries singled out as having greatest potential for overall fiber growth.

A closer look at individual markets reveals a far more mixed picture: Spain is actually doing quite well here, covering 60.5% of rural households with FTTH/B in 2020. That's pretty remarkable when you consider the percentage was just 5.6% in 2015.

Germany, on the other hand, is ranked tenth overall with just 9.8% rural coverage. The FTTH Council Europe did note that this represents a higher proportion of rural homes than the EU average. It also said Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK show the highest potential for overall fiber network growth in the coming years.

Indeed, Deutsche Telekom (DT), after years of focusing on VDSL and vectoring, is now intent on accelerating its fiber build under new Telekom Deutschland (TDE) CEO Srini Gopalan. The Indian executive made use of the German incumbent's Capital Markets Day in May to address how TDE plans to reach 10 million households by the end of 2024.

High-fiber diet

Looking ahead to the next five years, new forecasts from the FTTH Council Europe and IDATE DigiWorld anticipate that 302 million homes in the EU39 will be passed with FTTH/B by 2026, of which EU27+UK will account for 197 million, representing a 67% increase compared to 2021 figures.

The number of subscribers is expected to reach 135 million in 2026 for EU27+UK, up from 60 million in 2021, and 197 million for EU39 (from 99 million), while the take-up rate would continue to increase to 68.7% and 65.3% respectively (from 51.1% and 48.5% in 2021).

The EU39 also includes four CIS countries, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, as well as Iceland, Israel, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey.

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The organization pointed to several factors that have played a role in fostering the deployment of networks. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has persuaded more private investors to boost FTTH/B deployment, while new national programs have also been launched.

Vincent Garnier, Director General of the FTTH Council Europe, said this trend will be augmented by new usage patterns that are encouraging operators to migrate to FTTH. However, he warned that Europe still has a long way to go and called for action at government level to help drive user take-up.

"We strongly believe that to embrace the next digital decade and shape Europe's digital transformation by 2030, take-up is the next challenge, and we call on policy-makers to take the necessary measures for end-users to benefit from the world of new possibilities offered by full-fiber connectivity," Garnier said.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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