Maciej Witucki, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Orange Poland, admits the operator has no defined targets for FTTH deployment.
At the FTTH Council conference in Warsaw last week, Polish ministers made clear their desire to back the technology, claiming the country is “the largest broadband construction site in Europe”.
There is a long way to go. The total number of users of FTTH/B in Poland at the end of 2014 stood at 97,000, which is only 0.65 percent of all households in the country.
Compared to 2013, when access to technology was available only to 0.51 percent of the households, this means that Poland recorded an increase of about 20,000 users during the year.
That did not reach the threshold of one percent required for the country to be classified in the FTTH Council’s ranking, which revealed there are just over 12 million subscribers in the whole of the EU.
As ever, the problem is the business case. Witucki (pictured) makes a decent stab of talking up the tech, saying a pilot in Warsaw that Orange held demonstrated there is “substantial demand” for FTTH in big cities.
“In 14 months we have increased our market share from eight percent to 20 percent mostly winning back customers from cable operators. We believe that compared to other EU countries there is strong potential for FTTH,” Witucki says.
Further, he claims fiber optic technology is “crucial” for the future development of Poland and implementation of the Digital Agenda.
“Although the Polish fixed broadband market is not growing a lot in terms of the number of customers, there is a big shift within the group of current users towards high-speed broadband,” claims Witucki.
But he adds: “Orange Poland has no future target number at the moment. There is an intention to continue but we would prefer to keep this flexible regarding further years depending on the speed of customer take-up and success of monetisation.”
The Chairman appears much more enamoured by what he calls “very high-speed broadband” such as VDSL.
There are 160,000 such subscribers in Poland, up 150 percent on 12 months ago.
“This is the area in which we want to strongly focus in 2015,” says Witucki. “We are launching significant investments into very high-speed fibre access, taking advantage of the recent partial deregulation of the broadband market in 76 municipalities.
“Our objective for 2015 is to build coverage for up to 650,000 households, spending up to PLN 450 million (€108 million).”
The reason for sweating the copper assets is clear; Orange revealed earlier this week that revenues in Poland fell five percent in 2014, with fixed lined sales down seven percent to €1.3 billion.
Capex in Poland fell over eight percent last year, as Orange shifts focus to Africa and the Middle East.
Witucki believes consolidation will help.
He says the fragmentation of the European telecommunication market remains “the basic problem” for the industry.
“Fragmentation has a negative influence on companies’ investment capabilities – they are too small to invest a lot in infrastructure development,” he explains.
“In the US, the operators develop fiber optic networks and cover huge areas with LTE networks. In Europe everything is blocked somewhere between politics, regulations and business.
“We believe the industry and the market needs consolidation but the scale of any future consolidation will inevitably depend on the room for manoeuvre given by the European authorities.”
In common with its peers, Orange continues to show its face at FTTH events and talk of its desire to deploy FTTH. In reality, there is not a lot of action behind the words.