Even so, the SLU footprint seems relatively small. A more pressing concern for investors may be what these plans mean for dividend payments over the next few years. In fairness, Deutsche Telekom cannot be accused of springing them on the market without any warning. The presentation it issued at its 2012 capital markets day indicates that vectoring could be extended to 80% of households beyond 2016 as a "further option." But the financial implications of this move are not made explicit.
Investors can expect to hear more on that subject later this week, with Deutsche Telekom due to announce 2014 results and provide a strategy update. Yet executives have already expressed disappointment with the performance of the broadband-and-TV business, which was lagging growth targets as recently as September 2014, and Germany's cable operators are in combative spirits. When DOCSIS 3.1 technology becomes available later this year, they will be an even bigger threat. (See The Chips Fall for DOCSIS 3.1 .)
Can super-vectoring swoop to Deutsche Telekom's rescue? Unlike vectoring, it is not an industry standard but a proprietary technology developed by China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , which claims it is capable of supporting 400 Mbit/s connections over a loop length of 300 meters. Like G.fast -- another copper-fortifying broadband technology -- it seems to work by extending the range of frequencies over which broadband signals travel. Rival vendor Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is promoting a similar technology called Vplus. Both, however, remain commercially unproven. (See G.fast: The Dawn of Gigabit Copper?)
Perhaps more could be gained from G.fast, which is now starting to influence the decision-making of some leading European operators. UK fixed-line incumbent BT reckons G.fast could be used to support 500 Mbit/s services for most of the country's population, and 1 Gbit/s for the hungriest broadband customers, over the next few years. Deutsche Telekom, though, has been circumspect when it comes to G.fast and has yet to even acknowledge the standard in official announcements. That it touts super-vectoring in preference to G.fast suggests it harbors serious doubts about the latter. (See BT Puts G.fast at Heart of Ultra-Fast Broadband Plans.)
Ultimately, none of these copper options will stand up to long-term scrutiny. Deutsche Telekom expected standard vectoring to help it compete more effectively against faster cable services, but cable operators have not been standing still. The arrival of ultra-high-definition TV and more advanced Internet applications will put fresh demands on Europe's broadband networks. Before long, Deutsche Telekom will be forced to take that FTTH plunge. (See The Perennial Need for Speed.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading