Which country’s Prime Minister is also the Minister for Communications and Media?
The annual gathering of European fibre fans rarely produces surprises.
Every year I note few delegates from the UK. Every year I report that the UK is notably absent in the fibre penetration league tables. Every year the table gains extra lines. Now that Germany and Poland appear in the table, the UK’s absence is even more obvious. The entry qualification is at least 1% penetration of Fibre to the Home or Building – full fibre that is, not some halfway house still dependent on copper.
Table 1: European_Globalranking_endsept2015 (PDF download)
BT and DT have long shared an enthusiasm for leveraging their existing copper assets – and the sudden appearance of Germany in this table does not imply some huge change of incumbent heart.
The shift more likely reflects the success of alternative operators and municipal networks –and, statistically, their greater willingness to provide data on their success. In contrast, the UK’s alternative networks have learned to avoid any great political visibility and BT has been reticent in admitting to its own success in FTTH in order not to shade its FTTC strategy.
The rapid FTTH/B growth of Spain and Portugal does however reflect decisions by the main players – a recognition that long-term infrastructure investment is best done once rather than in short-term projects with more-expensive retrofitting.
Many would argue that, with new copper technologies such as G.fast, there’s ample life left in old copper networks. Even the FTTH Council Europe recognizes its value when applied correctly. If the fibre reaches the building, then G.fast can boost internal distribution and avoid engineering visits to install new kit. So whilst FTTH Council Europe distances itself from stratospheric hype’n’hope performance claims, the manufacturers of clever kit for copper are not dismayed.
Critics will say that the patches of fibre brilliance only occur in small places – like Jersey, Andorra, Luxembourg, Cumbria, or Stockholm – but, unlike London, these are places that cannot afford to be complacent.
Luxembourg (this year’s host for the FTTH Europe conference) has been served by a diverse mix of broadband technologies. Now they can boast that over 50% of the Grand Duchy has future-proofed FTTH available – and is en route to being a fully Gigabit digital Duchy by 2020. This incumbent-led investment is, of course, merely the essential enabler of future economic growth, inward investment and social development.
As the Prime Minister (who also doubles as Minister for Communications and Media) says, “We want a smart Luxembourg within a smart Europe.”
[This article first appeared in Total Telecom 17/02/2016]