Growth in take-up of fibre broadband services worldwide is encouraging, with connections reaching 81.67 million as of mid-year, but some operators in key European economies are proving reluctant to take the plunge.
Europe, excluding Russia and the CIS, had 5.95 million FTTH/B subscriptions at the end of June, up 16.4% over six months, according to new statistics compiled by IDATE for the FTTH Council Europe. The number of homes passed rose to 31.9 million, up 16%, with the average take-up rate reaching 18.6%.
The FTTH Council's ranking of European countries with fibre penetration of more than 1% included two new names from Europe this time around, with Luxembourg and Spain entering the chart at 19th and 20th positions respectively. Spain increased its FTTH/B subscribers by 44% in the first half of the year to take penetration to 1.42%, a significant number in a country with a sizeable population, while penetration in Luxembourg grew to 1.46%.
But there is still no place in the ranking for two of Europe's biggest economies: Germany and the U.K.
″In these countries FTTH is not the chosen architecture,″ said Valerie Chaillou, director of studies at IDATE.
In the U.K., for example, incumbent operator BT is focusing its efforts on rolling out fibre to the cabinet and on sweating its copper assets with technologies like vectoring.
But Roland Montagne, director of IDATE's telecoms business unit, questioned whether technologies like VDSL, that enable telcos to get higher speeds out of copper, will allow BT to compete effectively with cable company Virgin Media and broadcaster BSkyB.
″They [BT] are maybe playing a dangerous game, betting on the small capacity of coax,″ warned Montagne, explaining that the move to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard enables cable operators to provide higher bandwidth.
However, Nadia Babaali, communications director at the FTTH Council Europe, suggested that there could be a silver lining here for proponents of FTTH/B.
The ability of cable to provide faster services ″could be a driver″ for fibre in the U.K., by pushing the incumbent to move to FTTH, she said.
Indeed, that has been the case in other markets. In Spain, competition from cable operator Ono doubtless encouraged the