Romania beats Germany and Austria in fiber penetration rates

  • The FTTH Council keeps close tabs on fiber penetration and uptake rates in Europe
  • Its most recent data shows that some Eastern European countries are leading in fiber
  • Meanwhile, the U.K. is a real fiber laggard

The FTTH Council Europe puts out regular “Panorama” reports, showing the fiber penetration rates of the various countries in Europe. Data from the most recent Panorama is somewhat surprising in that countries such as Germany and Austria, which are typically viewed as technologically advanced, have some of the lowest fiber penetration rates. While the country with the highest fiber penetration is Romania with a coverage rate of 96.5%.

As the chart below shows, other countries with high fiber penetration include Spain, Bulgaria, Latvia and Portugal.

Because the definition of “Europe” is a bit complicated, the FTTH Council includes an average fiber penetration rate for the 27 countries in the European Union plus the U.K., and that rate is 64.5%. It also casts a wider net of 39 European countries, and that average fiber penetration rate is 69.9%.

FTTH Council chart 3

The FTTH Council Europe has 160 members, which include vendors, consultants and operators. The trade group recently elected Roshene McCool as president to serve the current one-year term. Fierce Network caught up with McCool to learn what’s going on with fiber in Europe.

McCool, who is also a senior market and technology development manager with Corning, said, “There are some territories within Europe that are very advanced and have more than 80% fiber. Coverage in France is at 84%; Spain at 92%, Portugal at 90%. What’s interesting in those more mature markets is adoption rates are at more than 70%.”

Earlier this year, Fierce Network spoke with Bernard Despres, Orange's VP for Core Network, Automation and Security. He said Orange is the leading fiber operator in Europe with 46 million FTTH passings as of the end of 2022.

McCool said that while operators in France and Spain made strategic decisions a number of years ago to deploy fiber, operators in other countries decided to “sweat existing assets” such as copper and try to get as much out of them as possible. 

“It’s no secret that the U.K. and Germany are behind in terms of fiber coverage,” she said. "I do have to say, the U.K. connected 4.7 million homes in 2023. There is a lot of encouragement to do it.”

The FTTH Council Europe also crunched data to show how quickly European countries have been deploying fiber since 2019. As the below chart shows, the U.K. and Germany have both accelerated their rollouts.

FTTH Council chart 2

McCool noted there are some government programs to encourage service providers to deploy fiber — similar to the Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) program in the U.S. Some examples include the EU’s Digital Decade Policy and the Gigabit Infrastructure Act.
In addition, individual countries sometimes have their own targets and incentive schemes. Germany’s Gigabitstrategie has the goal of delivering fiber-optic internet access to every household in Germany by 2030. 

In the UK, the government has signed £1 billion in contracts to upgrade broadband infrastructure in rural communities through its Project Gigabit. The contracted companies are working to connect around 677,000 rural homes and businesses to fiber across England. The networks that are built with the government subsidy are required to be open access networks.