It may be small in size, but Belgium's position at the center of Europe means it has long punched above its weight in terms of political clout. It seems the Benelux state has also been outperforming other countries in the European Union (EU) of late with regard to speed of fiber deployment.
Data just released by the FTTH Council Europe, a lobbyist for full-fiber technologies, identifies Belgium as the fastest-growing market in Europe in terms of homes passed by either fiber-to-the-home/building networks, ahead of Ireland, Switzerland, the UK and Germany. The data is not exactly fresh, charting the year to September 2019, but it still shows that Belgium was significantly ahead of nearest rivals with a whopping 307% increase (equating to 78,000 premises).
Indeed, second-ranked Ireland achieved only a 70.4% increase, while fifth-placed Germany grew by 33.5%. However, the other top four countries also managed to pass a lot more homes than Belgium, with the UK in the lead here at 1.4 million. It's worth noting that France passed the most homes in absolute numbers at 3.5 million, followed by Italy (1.9 million) and Spain (1.5 million). Belgium was also in the lead in terms of FTTH/B sockets deployed, although Italy was ranked second here and Germany dropped out of the top five.
The picture shifts again when it comes to subscriber numbers, with Greece roaring into the top spot after recording a pretty impressive 285% increase. Switzerland was next with a 176% increase, and Belgium was third with 111%. The top five is rounded out by Ireland (+93%) and Italy (+45.3%).
The report is based on data compiled by IDATE and looks at the status of FTTH/B deployments in 39 countries, including the 28 EU member states. As of September 2019, there were 70.4 million FTTH/B subscribers in the 39 countries and almost 172 million homes passed. The report noted that the rate of growth has been faster within the EU28, influenced by the EU Digital Agenda and national government measures to drive growth.
FTTH/B coverage still varies hugely across the EU, from 99% in tiny Andorra to 10% in Germany. Indeed, Germany is performing particularly poorly compared to Spain and France, with 85.6% and 57.1% respectively. Average coverage in the EU28 is still only 39.4%, compared to 49.9% across all 39 countries in the report. Those countries that have focused on copper-based technologies and/or DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades of cable networks (such as Germany and the UK) are lagging behind.
In terms of penetration rates (FTTH/B subscriptions by household), Iceland is in the lead with 65.9%, while Austria brings up the rear with just 1.9%. – again reflecting the huge discrepancies between the different countries.
For more on this topic, see:
- The UK's fiber gap is not closing fast enough
- France's operators see slight revenue gain in Q4 2019, says Arcep
- TIM, Infratel step up fiber switch-on in response to COVID-19
- CityFibre expands UK empire with £200M acquisition
- Where Cable Stands With Fiber
— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading