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Germany gives telcos a full fibre wake-up call

fibre broadband

The German government this week targeted full fibre coverage by 2030, in an effort to drag Europe’s biggest economy up the FTTH league table.

It was announced on Wednesday by digital affairs and transport minister Volker Wissing, as part of his ‘Gigabit For All’ plan. Wissing also set an interim target of 50 percent fibre coverage by the end of 2025. He doesn’t just want fibre to every home and workplace either. His plan also calls for “the latest generation of mobile technology” to reach blanket coverage by the end of the decade as well.

“With our Gigabit strategy, we want to achieve the digital awakening for Germany. Home office, streaming in the ICE (intercity express trains) and reception at the mountain hut must finally be possible without any problems,” said Wissing. “To do this, we need powerful digital infrastructures everywhere, i.e. fibre optics right into the house and the latest mobile communications standard.”

According to Germany’s Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV), telcos are poised to spend €50 billion in the coming years on network expansion. To help support this investment, the government wants to streamline the planning application and approval process for new infrastructure deployment.

The BMDV said it currently takes up to four months to process a paper-based planning application for broadband network deployment. The federal states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate are currently trialling a digital version of the application – supported by BMDV – with the aim of rolling it out nationwide by the end of this year.

In addition, BMDV wants to launch pilot projects for above-ground cable laying methods – which are presumably faster than digging trenches – and support the standardisation of alternative construction methods. Meanwhile, the telco regulator the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), will establish a gigabit land registry that stakeholders can use to ascertain where there is existing coverage and coverage gaps, and identify available infrastructure and facilities to support network expansion.

Meanwhile, to help improve mobile coverage of transport links, national railway company Deutsche Bahn plans to halve the length of time it takes to approve deployment of mobile infrastructure in tunnels.

In the longer term, the BMDV said it will draw up blueprints for 5G use cases in an effort to stimulate uptake, and support manufacturers and service providers in the development of Open RAN technology, which it claims will make Germany more independent from the big telco vendors and could help it usher in 6G more quickly.

Germany could do with being a little more ambitious. According to the FTTH Council Europe’s most recent statistics, 22.1 percent of premises in Germany had been passed by full fibre networks by September 2021, enough to rank it third from last in Europe. By comparison, coverage in market leaders Latvia and Spain stood at 89 percent and 88.9 percent respectively.

“We are now creating the conditions to make the expansion faster and more efficient,” Wissing said this week. “One thing is very clear to me: digital is better, because with it we create more participation, more opportunities, more progress for everyone. We’re going to tackle it now.”

 

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