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

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 (4:07 pm) - Score 1,273
fibre optic fiber optic cables

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.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    If all the variables are +/- 20% what does that mean for the total?

    Realistically what would be needed to build a 100% (wholesale?) FTTP network in the UK? And what would it mean for existing networks?

    ‘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.’

    Isn’t that 97.5%?

  2. Avatar Billy

    (possibly over 10 years if you intended to blanked the United Kingdom)
    (possibly over 10 years if you intended to blanket the United Kingdom)
    typo there Mark

  3. Avatar Neil McRae

    massively under-called… and no mention of the bigger issues!

    • Avatar FttMP

      Most aren’t as inefficient as Openreach have been historically. The costs that have been claimed, despite having ducts and poles in place, are outrageous.

      If Virgin Media can deploy without having ducts, poles, drops and exchanges to hold OLTs in place for 500 quid per premises passed the numbers I’ve heard from Openreach are laughable, and the manner in which they try to rip people off on FoD is churlish.

      Still on the upside, at least Openreach have finally realised that GEA-FTTP shouldn’t be treated like a leased line to every property. I bet the Swindon FTTP deployment was relatively pretty cheap, though of course Openreach will continue to claim it cost more per premises using existing ducts and chambers than it’s costing CityFibre, Virgin Media, et al with no pre-existing access network.

      VDSL won’t cut it for too much longer. The G.fast on the cheap rollout won’t cut it for millions. What you call ‘investment’ most call looking for ways to spend as little as possible for maximum PR value to politicians. Trumpeting a ‘massive’ investment in NGA that is barely budging the existing CapEx budget is very clever indeed though.

      Still on the upside you’ve coined a new acronym. You’ve gone from FttPR to FttMP.

      Yours, a guy with 2 VDSL lines that combined are outperformed by the cheapest and lowest speed product the cable company has.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ FttMP

      Why do more than 85% of people who have BT’s GEA-FTTP take the 80/20 or 40/10 services?

      Where have VM claimed they can deploy a network with zero existing assets for £500 per premises?

    • Avatar FttMP

      Andy, I’m not sure I made any comment on the choice of products of people on the GEA-FTTP services, or made any reference to it. There are a number of reasons why it’s the case, but regardless it seems Openreach consider there to be a market for higher performance services, albeit only if they can deploy the necessary technology on a shoestring.

      Regarding FTTP at £500 per premises, CityFibre claim that was the cost in York, VM’s method of deployment is slightly more modern still and costs are in the same ballpark. I could quote exact sources but said sources would rapidly stop talking to me.

      Regardless this isn’t controversial. I appreciate Openreach had issues with FTTP and ended up dialing it back having completely messed it up, spending a fortune in Milton Keynes doing so, but deployment costs are substantially lower now with even Openreach realising their initial deployment methods were absurd.

      Possibly unreliable sources point to costs in Swindon, where no civils were necessary, being closer to £300 per premises passed. These same costs could be replicated elsewhere for sure.

      We’ll see if overclocked FTTC or FTTP is more attractive going forward.

    • Avatar FttMP

      So Andy, in answer to your question I would imagine that the lack of advertising of the >76Mb products on the biggest seller of these products, BT Consumer, probably doesn’t help.

      Very little if any advertising of the >76Mb packages is seen anywhere due to the lack of availability, though we taxpayers have done our bit to help out to the point where there’s virtually none of it in many of our largest cities but it’s all over some hamlets and villages.

      Nothing here on BT’s website.

      http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/products/infinity-broadband/
      http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/products/broadband-packages/

      Checking specifically on an address with FTTP, available courtesy of the taxpayer naturally as most don’t live in Milton Keynes, small pockets of a few other places or places that were useful for publicity, it shows Infinity 1, 2 and 3, you have to scroll to see 4, and has welcome discounts on Infinity 1 and 2.

      Then we get to pricing.

      200Mb Infinity 3 comes in at £59.99 a month including line rental for a year, going to £66.49, with the 300Mb Infinity 4 coming in at £64.99 a month for a year then £73.49 a month.

      Infinity 2 is £44.99 a month including line rental.

      Most of the other operators who sell FTTP just don’t sell the 200Mb or 300Mb product full stop, or sell them only as business products with the price tag to match.

      Let’s see how Virgin Media’s product mix ends up, with 200Mb being just £5 a month more than 100Mb, 200/20 being £10 a month more, and 300/20 £15 a month more, with 300/20 £12.99 a month cheaper than 200Mb Infinity 3 over the first 12 months and £11.49 a month ongoing.

      The price difference between VM’s highest and lowest product is £15. On BT Consumer it’s £30, and £25 between the lowest product and the 200Mb product.

      I’m thinking the lack of advertising combined with the large price differentials might be something to do with it, especially in a market where companies sell FTTC as a loss-leader or cross-subsidise it.

      That and Openreach / BT Wholesale pricing 200-300Mb like it’s some super-premium uber product in order to protect leased line revenues. The product is intentionally not competitive and that’s very clear from Hyperoptic being able to sell a symmetrical gigabit for £63 a month and Virgin Media, despite the need to upgrade legacy network, 300/20 for £47 a month.

      VM aren’t that far away from being able to offer a gigabit over DOCSIS 3.1. It’s probably going to be, at retail, less than Openreach charge CPs just to get from customer to handover.

      So TL;DR it’s not advertised and it’s a rip off.

      You’re welcome.

  4. Avatar Sunil Sood

    Don’t get me wrong, I would like the option of FTTP and it might be more future proof but the truth is that most consumers don’t care how their service is provided – whether its g.fast, VDSL, ADSL, cable, FTTP, 5G etc – as long as it meets their needs.

    In that sense, they are technology neutral as regulators should also be – unlike the FTTH Council Europe who are there to favour one specific technology.

    However, consumers also want something affordable.. hence the other technologies being used not just FTTP.

    It will be interesting to see how the EU plans to fund their “non-binding” target for “all European households” to get 100Mbps+ by 2025 especially with the UK’s contributions stopping.. not that I think they would have been able to reach it anyway.

  5. Avatar Neil McRae

    Ok riddle me this mr “FTTmp” (I love secret code names 😉 – why do so few people take any service above 40M (not just in the U.K.)
    And why are so many still on ADSL2 even when they could have FTTC or cable?

    You can have any view you like on costs – and you can assume the best cost is the one that applies everywhere but your also have to add time and demand.

    • Just on the point about speeds above 40Mbps on FTTC, as I generally agree with the thrust of what you’re trying to say, but the 80Mbps profile on FTTC is a bit more of a gamble as you’re much more likely to get well below that after crosstalk, congestion and other factors like copper distance have had their way. If you could actually get the full 80Mbps everywhere then it may attract more users.

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