Fiber Builds Accelerating Worldwide

Carl Weinschenk

The move to fiber is not just a phenomenon in the United States, of course. Plenty of progress is being made in many regions.

In mid-August, ABI Research released worldwide fiber broadband numbers. The study said that 19 percent of subscribers worldwide are now receiving content via this technology, a 23 percent increase over the 13 percent figure reached in 2012. The study identified China as perhaps the main driver of the increase. The release said that Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia and British Telecom are testing Very Fast Digital Subscriber Line 2 (VDSL2).

It’s interesting that the ABI release suggested that the DSL research was due to the fact that fiber isn’t the answer in every case. Undoubtedly, VDSL2 will be an alternative to fiber in some cases. However, DSL is a complementary technology in hybrid fiber/copper platforms, so research on copper last-mile approaches does not imply that advanced fiber projects are not ongoing.

Regardless of the status of VDSL2, it’s clear that progress is swift. In Spain, Orange and Vodafone said that their fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service will be operational before the end of 2013, which is earlier than the original goal, which was early next year. Total Telecom reported that quick progress is being made, with work under way in 12 cities, including Madrid and Barcelona:


Orange and Vodafone said their FTTH network is on track to pass 800,000 premises by March 2014, by which time they will have co-invested €200 million in the project. Longer term they plan to cover 3 million premises by 2015, growing to 6 million across 50 major cities by September 2017, equivalent to a residential penetration level of around 40%.

On Monday, Deutsche Telekom said that it is using advanced digital subscriber line (DSL) technology to increase last-mile throughput of its fiber network to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps). In parallel, the German carrier is speeding up its deployment schedule. About 12 million households now are connected to the fiber network, according to the press release. About 800,000 will be added this year. By the end of 2016, the number will roughly double to 24 million households. The company said that about 17,600 multifunctional cabinets and 10,000 kilometers of fiber will be added to the network.

Not all the news is huge and carrier-wide. For instance, The Northern Echo reported this week that homes and businesses in the northeast English town of Darlington will have access to a BT fiber network “in the coming weeks.” At the project’s completion, 31,000 properties will be impacted, the story said.

The rollout out of fiber, in all its iterations, is accelerating. That’s not surprising, but something to keep in mind. It also is important to remember that news of VDSL2 rollouts is just as likely to be a sign of more fiber construction as it is of the fiber option being bypassed.



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