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FTTH subscribers in Europe reach 36 million

The number of fibre-to the home (FTTH) and fibre to the building (FTTB) subscribers

in Europe increased by 19 per cent over the first nine months of 2015, to reach nearly 36 million, according to the FTTH panorama unveiled at the FTTH Conference 2016 in Luxembourg in February. Meanwhile, the number of homes passed

increased by 17 per cent in the same period, to reach nearly 127 million across the 39 countries included in the study (EU39) – from Iceland in the west to Russia in the east. That growth isn’t as fast as in 2014, when the

rate was 60 per cent over the year, but that’s only to be expected as the market matures, says analyst firm Idate, which prepares the study for the FTTH Council Europe. Russia is still the largest market in the region

with more than 15 million subscribers, but some other countries deserve a special mention. Spain had the largest number of new subscribers, growing at a rate of 65 per cent over the nine- month period to reach 2.6 million subscribers. (In fact, Spain topped 3 million subscribers by the end of 2015, see below.) France and Romania were not far behind with 2.4 million and 2.3 million subscribers, respectively, at the end of September 2015. Three new countries passed the one per cent

threshold to enter the FTTH Ranking: Croatia, Germany and Poland. Germany’s progress in the league table was not due to the incumbent, but the result of fibre projects led by municipalities and smaller private players such as Deutsche Glasfaser. ‘We are glad to witness such progress, including three new countries entering our FTTH ranking,’

FTTH European Ranking – end-September 2015

said Edgar Aker, President of the FTTH Council Europe. ‘Europe is now well positioned to stimulate FTTH roll-out, the only future-proof broadband solution.’ In terms of penetration, Lithuania is still number

one with a subscriber penetration rate of 36.8 per cent. However, Latvia in second place has 36.2 per cent, and Sweden in third with 35.2 per cent, are both stepping up deployment and could challenge Lithuania in the coming years. Luxembourg, host country of the conference,

also reported good progress, increasing the number of FTTH/B subscribers by almost three points to 14.1 per cent at the end of September 2015. The Luxembourg government has set the

ambitious objective for gigabit broadband for everyone by 2020. Operator POST Luxembourg has rolled out FTTH to about half of the country so far, one of the highest coverage levels in Europe for an incumbent – albeit in a country with a population of only half a million. Several European countries are still holding back

on their fibre deployments, Aker points out. Austria, Ireland and Belgium connected less than 4,000 new FTTH/B customers during the first nine months of 2015. Even though the United Kingdom connected

26,000 new FTTH/B subscribers, the country has yet to reach the qualifying one per cent threshold to join the ranking.

Spain approves new wholesale fibre market regulation

Spain’s communications regulator has finally approved new rules that require the incumbent to open up its fibre-to-the- home (FTTH) network to competitors. The regulations are part of a wide-ranging review governing the country’s wholesale fixed broadband market, which have been more than a year in the making. The controversial new rules from the

Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) will require Telefonica to provide wholesale access to its FTTH network across most of Spain. Only 66 cities will escape regulation. In

these so-called ‘competitive areas’, representing about 35 per cent of the

10 FIBRE SYSTEMS Issue 11 • Spring 2016

country, Telefonica will not be required to share its network because there are already three or more networks offering high-speed broadband via FTTH or DOCSIS 3.0 cable connections. The number of locations has risen

substantially from the 34 originally proposed in CNMC’s draft document, which was based on data from the end of 2014, to the final figure of 66, after the 2015 figures were taken into account. This reflects the accelerated pace of FTTH deployment in Spain, which ended 2015 with 3.1 million fibre-optic subscribers, almost double the year-ago number. In the remaining 65 per cent of the

country, Telefonica must within 18 months start to provide other operators with virtual access to its fibre-optic networks, so-called ‘virtual unbundled local access’ (VULA). In the business market, which is deemed to be less competitive, Telefonica must provide wholesale access to both its copper and fibre networks across the entire country. Even in locations that are free from

fibre regulation, Telefonica must continue to provide wholesale access to its copper network as well as share its duct infrastructure – which has helped rivals Orange, Jazztel and Vodafone expand their fibre networks significantly in recent

years. Orange Spain, for example, plans to reach 10 million homes by the end of the year. According to the Spanish press,

Telefonica has repeatedly rejected calls to open up its fibre network, and has warned that the CNMC’s proposal would have the opposite of the intended effect and would prompt operators to reconsider major investment plans. Now the operator looks set to carry out its threat to slow down its FTTH plans. Telefonica will cut back investment by 20 per cent, and instead concentrate its roll-out on the cities that are free from regulation, according to reports.

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