Germany extends broadband funding to 'grey spots'

Federal government makes more municipalities eligible for 'digital infrastructure' fund.

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

April 27, 2021

2 Min Read
Germany extends broadband funding to 'grey spots'

Germany's federal coalition government is fading to grey in its attempt to expand fiber rollout to places generally not deemed by operators as giving attractive investment returns.

Previously, only municipalities or districts in so-called "white spots" – areas where Internet speeds fell below 30 Mbit/s – could apply to the government's special "digital infrastructure" fund. The rules have now changed.

The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has announced that local authorities in "grey spots," where Internet speeds are below 100 Mbit/s, can also apply to the fund. The BMVI is also keen that "important connections," such as schools, hospitals and SMEs, do the necessary fund paperwork if they happen to be in "white spots."

According to BMVI, the new measure will allow the federal government to support the expansion of fiber to a further 2.8 million premises.

Andreas Scheuer, Germany's federal minister of transport and digital infrastructure, said the "grey spot" ruling was a boost for broadband expansion, and that it was another "big step" to achieving the coalition government's "nationwide gigabit" target by 2025.

Curiously, given Germany's digital infrastructure fund comes mainly from an auction of 5G-friendly spectrum held in 2019, topped up by the regular federal budget, Scheuer added that "we had to negotiate long and hard with the European Commission" to make the change in eligibility rules.

Broadband progress, but Germany still mid-table

Of the €12 billion (US$14.5 billion) allocated to the digital infrastructure fund, BMVI said around €8.3 billion ($10 billion) had already been approved for some 2,180 expansion projects in "white spots." They mount up to around 2.6 million new connections.

At the end of 2020, 59% of German households had access to 1 Gbit/s Internet speeds, up 6.6 million households from 12 months previously.

Want to know more about optical? Check out our dedicated optical channel here on Light Reading.

Despite progress, the European Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) for 2020 showed that Germany ranked 12th out of 28 European Union member states.

Albeit based on data prior to the pandemic, Germany, when it came to the "connectivity dimension" in the DESI report, led the EU on 5G readiness and had a high take-up of overall fixed broadband.

Performance in fixed very-high capacity network coverage was well below the EU average, however, where it occupied 21st position.

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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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