The FTTH Council Europe event in Luxembourg this week was one of the first public outings for Nokia’s new fixed network team.

Having moved over from Alcatel-Lucent during the past few months, Stefan Vanhastel, Head of Marketing for Fixed Networks, notes one big change.

“For us who came from Alcatel-Lucent it’s about approaching everything with wireless in the back of our minds,” he says.

“We see more focus [from service providers] on fixed-wireless convergence but other than that it’s business as usual.”

The fixed team has had a much easier job than counterparts in wireless, where the two companies have a crossover of products.

Yet there is still work to do on the fixed side. “It’s going to take a bit more time as product managers need to figure out the combined solutions,” says Vanhastel.

Next week’s Mobile World Congress should give the industry a first glimpse of these.

In the meantime, attention turns to the FTTH market.

As reported yesterday, deployment and subscriber growth slowed in Europe last year.

Vanhastel seems surprised by this. In terms of shipments, he says, there hasn’t been a decline and deployments are “ongoing”.

But while he says operators “do plan to go fibre all the way”, they continue to take different paths to get there.

“What was different in 2015 was that we saw multi-gigabit services start to pop up in Asia-Pac and North America,” Vanhastel says.

“Very quickly we went from 1Gb to 2Gb to 10Gb.”

The exec notes this trend was less prevalent in Europe because the continent has “better broadband” in comparison.

Many operators continue to focus on sweating their copper assets.

Although Vanhastel urges them to start building fibre networks “as fast as possible”, he says upgrading existing assets is not a worthless exercise.

“You get people used to a service which generates demand in the future,” he says.

What’s more, Vanhastel claims high-speed copper actually helps fibre deployments.

The theory goes that the range of tools on offer, notably vectoring and G.fast, provide a cheaper way to connect users where the cost of deploying fibre is high.

The assumption, or evidence according to Vanhastel, is that this means operators will deploy fibre in “key strategic areas”.

“I’m convinced there is more FTTH because of all the different tools available,” he says.

It is a theory that could explain the slowing growth rates in Europe.

If it is the case, then we could see growth continue to slow in 2016.

Vanhastel says there remains a lot of interest in vectoring and G.fast tech, particularly the latter.

He says the tech is set to “take off” this year with BT in particular due to launch a commercial service.

However, BT is something of an outlier in using G.fast as the main tool to improve the performance of its FTTC network.

“Others will take a more tactical approach,” says Vanhastel.

Whatever operators decide on, the former A-L team will hope that the improving situation they have grown accustomed to will not change under their new employers.

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