Fiber optic expansion in Germany: “The market works”


The expansion of fiber optics in Germany is making progress, but there is still a long way to go before a nationwide FTTH offer is available. Last year, the German network operators created a connection option for almost two million more households. A total of 8.3 million households now have direct access to the fiber optic network, which is almost 30 percent more than in 2019. This is the result of a market analysis for 2020 that the Federal Association of Broadband Communication (Breko) presented on Tuesday.

Deutsche Telekom accounts for around a quarter of the connections provided, with the lion’s share being provided by the numerous competitors. Among the 8.3 million households that can in principle be connected, there are also those that still require minor construction work (“Homes Passed”). Of the total of 6.2 million households reached by the Breko companies, 4.4 million are actually connected, of which 1.9 million are in turn with active customer contracts on the network. In the market segment of connections available in Germany with bandwidths of 200 Mbit / s and more, the share of fiber optics is growing from 13 percent in the previous year to 17 percent.

The demand for the connections actually available remains at the previous year’s level, the so-called “take-up rate” is just over 40 percent, at Telekom it is about 30 percent according to another study. The industry is confident that demand will increase. Study leader Jens Böcker, who the Market analysis for which Breko has carried out, is not only anticipating increasing demand for high upload rates in view of the trend towards home offices: “We will see more offers with symmetrical bandwidths.”

The data volume per month and user alone continues to grow strongly and averaged 200 GB in 2020 (2019: 142 GB). Breko expects bandwidth demand to increase five to six times over the next five years. For private customers this would mean an average of 845 Mbit / s (download) and 302 Mbit / s (upload), for business customers the bandwidth demanded will be 1.5 Gbit / s (download) and 922 Mbit / s (upload) in 2026. While the bandwidth requirement for private customers is driven by IPTV and streaming services, for business customers it is the cloud.

(Image: Federal Association of Broadband Communication)

“Even if we haven’t reached our goal yet, we can say that all parameters are now green,” said Breko President Norbert Westfal, pleased. More and more companies are starting expansion projects and foregoing state subsidies because the subsidy procedures are slowing down. The Breko companies invested 5.9 billion euros in fiber-optic expansion last year, and Telekom’s 4.6 billion euros. “The market works,” said Westfal. Breko assumes that the number of 11.5 million available fiber optic connections will be reached this year. By 2024 there should be a total of 26 million possible connections, 10 million of which will be provided by Telekom.

And that despite the obstacles that still exist. The fiber optic expansion is also affected by the global shortage of chips: “The shortage of fiber optic modems seems to be improving,” said Westfal. “Network elements are also affected, but we will have that under control for the next few months.” The situation in civil engineering is still tense, even if more foreign companies are now offering their capacities.

(Image: Federal Association of Broadband Communication)

It is not only with regard to construction capacities that the industry is urgently warning of politically imposed expansion obligations that some parties are flirting with in the election campaign. That would be a “fatal signal for the investors” who are now driving the fiber optic expansion, warned Westfal. An expansion obligation slows down the needs-based and competition-driven expansion.

The association repeated its call for a digital ministry in which the political competencies that are decisive for the expansion are bundled. In this way, politics must take account of the important role played by network expansion. “The fiber optic expansion is the infrastructure project that will be crucial for the future,” warned Breko managing director Stephan Albers. “You can’t think in terms of legislative periods.”


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