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Deutsche Telekom targets 2 million new fibre connections in 2022

fibre broadband

German operator group DT has been crowing about its FTTH achievements this week as part of an ongoing effort to shed its image as a fixed-line-Luddite.

The incumbent said it hit its target of adding 1.2 million full fibre connections this year, a target that it will increase to 2 million next year. By 2024, Deutsche Telekom hopes to cover 10 million households with FTTH. From that point onwards, the telco aims to add an average of 2.5 million FTTH connections per year. That means by 2030, Deutsche Telekom’s fibre network should reach nearly two-thirds of German households.

“Optical fibre is fast, stable and future-proof. We are building a high-speed network that will ensure digital participation for everyone in Germany,” said Srini Gopalan, board member and managing director of DT’s domestic operation. “As announced, we are focusing our roll-out on rural areas,” he continued. “By 2030, we want to build eight million fibre-optic connections in communities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.”

All this love for full fibre is a far cry from the Deutsche Telekom of a few years ago, the one that used to insist that copper was a perfectly viable last-mile technology for superfast broadband. It is understandable given it’s an incumbent with a lot of copper in the ground. It was also concerned that it would plough a ton of money into a full fibre network and then be forced by the regulator to give access to rivals under onerous terms and conditions. Instead of push forward on fibre then, Deutsche Telekom fought hard to get regulatory approval to add vectored VDSL to its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) network. It eventually got the green light in April 2016, amid fierce criticism from rival Vodafone.

A look back at historic FTTH Council Europe statistics shows that in September 2015, Germany ranked second from bottom in Europe in terms of FTTH/B connections, with household penetration of just over 1 percent. By comparison, neighbours Denmark and the Netherlands were boasting 16 percent and 15 percent respectively. Penetration in France was nearing 8 percent, while further afield, Spain had almost reached 15 percent.

Germany is doing better now, but it still sits towards the very bottom of the table. According to the FTTH Council’s most recent figures, FTTH/B penetration reached 4.9 percent in Germany in September 2020. Again by way of comparison, Denmark has reached 33.7 percent; France 35 percent; and Spain has stormed off and reached 62.6 percent. In the Netherlands – which has a lot of DOCSIS cable in the ground – growth has tailed off somewhat, and FTTH/B penetration stands at 19 percent.

Until Deutsche Telekom finally accepted which way the wind was blowing, a lot of the FTTH growth in Germany in recent years was being driven by altnets like Deutsche Glasfaser. This week, Deutsche Glasfaser secured another €5.75 billion for its fibre rollout. Meanwhile, the big guns are looking for partners to help them play catch-up. Deutsche Telekom last month struck a deal with Australian investment company IFM to help cover the cost of rural fibre deployment. Similarly, earlier this year Liberty Global Ventures established a joint venture with InfraVia Capital Partners that will also invest in German fibre networks.

Meanwhile, one area of network deployment about which Deutsche Telekom can justifiably feel proud is 5G. It has built 6,000 new sites this year, bringing the total to 63,000 – enough to offer coverage to 90 percent of Germany’s population. It is on course to reach 90 percent geographic coverage by 2025. Deutsche Telekom has begun rolling out standalone (SA) 5G on its 3.6 GHz spectrum, and plans to add further frequency bands next year.

“Our forward-looking understanding of technology and the rollout strategy based on it have ensured that Germany is already benefiting massively from 5G. And in the shortest possible time,” said Claudia Nemat, the Deutsche Telekom board member responsible for technology and innovation. “We are running the roll-out marathon at sprint speed. Never before has a new generation of mobile communications been rolled out so quickly.”

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