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£116bn Needed to Deploy Ultrafast FTTH Broadband Across the EU by 2025

Wednesday, Apr 12th, 2017 (4:07 pm) - Score 1,328

The FTTH Council Europe has revised downward last year’s Comsof estimate for the cost of deploying ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) based broadband networks across the EU (currently this still includes the UK) by 2025, which makes it €137 billion (£116bn) instead of €156bn (£132bn).

As before the final cost model targets the “complete overlay” of the EU28 countries with pure fibre optic broadband, which includes an outcome that would expect to see 100% of homes passed (covered) and 50% connected (subscribed / take-up). This includes 50% of the most remote rural 5% being both passed and connected.

Apparently the reason for the downward cost revision is because “significant progress has been made since those studies in terms of homes passed and connected with fibre” (e.g. Spain). The latest figure from iDATE suggested that today, approximately 36% of households are passed with FTTH (at the last report it was 30%) and 11% are already enjoying its benefits.

The calculation also appears to factor in fluctuating aspects like labour costs and the re-use of existing infrastructure via effective implementation of the new Cost Reduction Directive (i.e. cutting red tape).

Ronan Kelly, President of the FTTH Council Europe, said:

“We are very happy to be publishing this study now. The cost modellers who generated the FTTH Council Europe cost estimates have modelled over three quarters of a million households using real data from actual deployments in a variety of scenarios.

By putting out the methodology we also invite other parties estimating these costs to join a discussion. The key for me is that the opportunity cost of not building fibre networks or delaying their construction is too high. Policy makers should not compromise in seeking the best networks for Europe.

Fibre will undoubtedly play a crucial role in enabling European 5G rollout as its foundational infrastructure as well as next generation digital services.”

The cost of deploying FTTH/P varies from location to location. In some rural areas it might cost several thousand pounds per premise, while in easier urban locations we’ve seen operators like MS3 in Hull and Cityfibre / TalkTalk in York bring it down to as little as £500 per premise passed. Meanwhile community-built providers, such as B4RN, can often get around the hefty rural costs by asking local people to help build the network.

Another challenge stems from the fact that it can still take many years to roll-out due to the need for lots of extra civil engineering work (possibly over 10 years if you intended to blanket the United Kingdom), although the longer term benefits may well outweigh this (easier / less maintenance, ultrafast speeds etc.). At the current pace 2025 is perhaps a touch unrealistic for achieving 100% FTTH coverage in the UK (we’ve only just gone past 2%).

The FTTH Council Europe have of course released this to help support the European Commission‘s post-2020 policy, which proposes a new non-binding Gigabit Society target for “all European households” to get a minimum Internet download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025, with businesses and the public sector being told to expect 1Gbps+ (here).

Quite how much of this will be adopted in the United Kingdom, where Brexit is the order of the day and an austerity conscious Government holds sway, is anybody’s guess. Over the next few years BT and Virgin Media’s combined (mostly commercial) efforts should put FTTH/P within reach of 4 million premises by 2020.

On top of that alternative network providers, such as Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, B4RN and Cityfibre etc., could potentially add a few million to that total and so we might see coverage of around 25% of premises in just a few short years’ time (estimates vary quite a bit due to the uncertainty of altnet commitments and potential for delays or funding uncertainty) and rising again over the longer term.

This is being supported by new regulation from Ofcom’s Strategic Review (here and here), which among other things will give rival ISPs more access to harness Openreach’s (BT) existing cable ducts. On top of that the Government has setup a £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) that is designed to support “full fibre” deployments from alternative network providers (here), which has recently been boosted by another pot of £200m (here).

However this is still just a drop in the ocean of what would be needed to achieve the FTTH council’s aspiration in the UK, which would require billions more from public and private investment. In the meantime cheaper, but still very capable, hybrid-fibre upgrades like G.fast and DOCSIS3.1 should help to meet the short-medium term demand for ultrafast connectivity that exists.

Unless you live in a remote rural area.. in which case, the long wait for even 30Mbps+ capable broadband continues.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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