WARSAW -- FTTH Conference 2015 -- The number of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) subscribers in the European region is set to more than double during the next five years as the pace of rollout picks up after years of stalling, according to a new report compiled for the FTTH Council Europe.
According to the study, undertaken by Heavy Reading analyst-at-large Graham Finnie, there were 30.7 million households connected directly to fiber -- including apartments in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) that get high-speed services via a fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) connection -- at the end of 2014 in the European region comprising 44 countries, from Iceland in the west to Russia and Kazakhstan in the east.
By the end of 2019, according to Finnie's forecast, that number should have risen to almost 62 million, representing about 19% of the 324 million households in those 44 countries. Of those near 62 million, Finnie expects almost half (47%) to be delivered by incumbent national telcos, with 46% delivered by competitive operators and 7% by municipalities or utility companies. Multi-dwelling units will account for about 70% of all connections, while 55% of connections will be based on PON technology and 45% on point-to-point (P2P) Ethernet technology.
Finnie says he has raised his aggregate expectations compared with a year ago due to stronger than expected rollout and take-up in key FTTH markets such as Portugal, Spain and Russia, and a re-assessment of the number of fiber-connected households in a number of markets, including Romania and the Netherlands.
The analyst, who has been tracking the European broadband sector for years, says that, in general, intensified competition, improving regulatory environments, rapid build-out and "positive signals" in France and Spain and ongoing aggressive rollout in Eastern European markets have been encouraging market indicators during the past year.
But while some countries have well and truly boarded the FTTH bandwagon, others have not, with some major incumbent operators in markets such as the UK and Germany opting to invest further in their copper access networks instead of fiber. In addition, there is still no single application that demands FTTH broadband speeds and in most markets there is little likelihood of any public funding to support FTTH projects. (See BT Puts G.fast at Heart of Ultra-Fast Broadband Plans and Speed Battle Rages in Germany.)
And while the rate of rollout and uptake might be accelerating, it's from a very low base. The numbers look even less impressive if Russia is removed from the equation: Of the 30.7 million FTTH connections at the end of last year, about 13.5 million were in Russia alone.
Russia is by far the biggest market for FTTH connections currently: The next largest is Romania, with about 2.1 million, followed by France, with more than 1.7 million, and then Sweden, with more than 1.5 million FTTH households.
Russia will still be the leading market by the end of 2019, according to Finnie's forecast, which focuses on projections for 22 of the total 44 markets. By the end of this decade, Russia is set to have more than 22 million FTTH connections, followed by France, Spain, Turkey and Sweden. (Romania is not among the 22 countries analyzed in detail.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading