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Greek incumbent OTE Group ploughs billions into fibre

The OTE Group has announced plans to roll out full fibre to 3 million homes and businesses in Greece over the next five years, investing around €3 billion in the process.

The company, which operates as Cosmote, detailed what it described as “a sharp increase” in investments in fibre. Its total spend will exceed €3 billion by 2027, it said, without disclosing what its previous budget looked like.

Careful wording aside, this is welcome news for Greece, which lags behind its European peers when it comes to full fibre.

The FTTH Council Europe ranks Greece in 38th place out of 39 European countries in terms of full fibre coverage, with just 9.9% of homes passed. Take-up of full fibre broadband in the country remains below 1 percent. Admittedly that data is now a year old, but the landscape has not changed a huge amount in Greece in that time.

However, OTE’s announcement suggests things might be finally moving forwards. This new plan will see it upgrade almost two-thirds of the country’s existing fixed lines to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). In OTE’s words, it’s a game changer, and that’s not too wide of the mark when you consider that as it stands the telco has 560,000 FTTH lines deployed.

The move comes just weeks after rival operator Wind Hellas shared plans to spin off its own fibre assets into a new entity to be known as Hellenic Openfiber that will operate as an open access wholesaler. That was also a step in the right direction for the country as a whole, and while it might be a bit of a stretch to suggest that it served to push OTE on with its own plans, it is undoubtedly on the incumbent’s radar.

It is worth noting that OTE’s biggest shareholder is Deutsche Telekom, which was itself something of a fibre laggard until fairly recently, but is now pulling out all the stops to deploy FTTH in its home market. And now in Greece.

“Deutsche Telekom’s investment in Greece is of strategic importance. Especially over the past years, the country has made significant progress in all sectors, proving that it belongs among Europe’s front-runners,” OTE quoted the German incumbent’s chief executive Tim Höttges as saying at a meeting between itself and Greek ministers, including PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, set up to discuss the fibre rollout.

“Through our strategic plan to accelerate FTTH rollout, we firmly support the vision for the country’s digital transformation and pass a vote of confidence in its growth potential,” Höttges said.

In addition to broadening the availability of full fibre, OTE has pledged to increase broadband speeds, at no extra cost, for customers living in regions where FTTH is not available. It will begin the initiative in the first quarter of next year. The plan is lacking in details – we don’t know what sort of speeds we are talking about, for example – but the aim is pretty clear: OTE wants customers to experience faster broadband services now, so that they are presumably more willing to upgrade to full fibre when the time comes. Good thinking.


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