German regulator considers new measures to accelerate fibre-optic expansion

Monday 4 December 2017 | 18:04 CET | News
Germany needs to focus more on expanding its high-speed broadband network beyond the goals laid out in the government’s national broadband initiative, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), Germany’s national utilities and telecoms regulator, said in its telecommunications activity report for 2016 and 2017. 

Under its national broadband strategy, Germany has set a goal of providing all households with internet speeds of at least 50 Mbps by the end of 2018. Roughly 77 percent of households in Germany already have access to internet at speeds up to 50 Mbps, although significant regional variations persist, said BNetzA in its report.

While 90 percent of households in Germany’s cities have access to internet speeds up to 50 Mbps, only 36 percent of households in rural areas have connections at this rate, the report found. 

The agency noted that household demand for connections with speeds of 100 Mbps and higher is continuously increasing, with 13 percent of Germany’s 32.5 million broadband customers already booking connections with these capacities. That percentage in turn is twice as high as it was in 2015, they said. 

In light of this growing demand, the Federal Network Agency said the country needs to think beyond its nationwide 50 Mbps goal for 2018 and develop gigabit-capable infrastructure. 

The head of the Federal Network Agency, Jochen Homann, told reporters at a press conference in Bonn 04 December that it was looking into more flexible regulations to help facilitate the expansion of fibre-optic connections, according to Reuters. Those measure could include allowing companies to participate in network expansions to cut down costs and departures from rigid cost-plus rules on pricing.

Critics of the government’s broadband initiative have been warning for some time that its expansion strategy would make it difficult for Germany to make the leap to a 'Gigabit society', as market leader Deutsche Telekom has focused its efforts on upgrading existing copper wiring through vectoring rather than invest in full fibre-optics needed for gigabit speeds.

Still, the agency found that demand for "very high performance fibre-optic connections" in Germany remains low. Only a quarter of the more than 2.7 million households with the potential to access these connections have taken up the opportunity, said the agency. 

The report found internet services are increasingly important for mobile as well, with over 63 million consumers in Germany now using mobile broadband over LTE and UMTS. Going forward, the Federal Network Agency said Germany is striving to make the necessary frequencies available so that the country is a pioneer in 5G mobile technology.

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