The number of FTTH/B subscribers in Europe increased by 20.4 percent in the year to September 2017, new figures show, with Russia, Spain and France powering growth.

The latest FTTH Market Panorama, compiled by French think-tank IDATE for the FTTH Council, revealed that there are now 51.6 million pure fibre customers on the continent.

Russia added 1.83 million new subscribers in the period, the highest across the 39 countries studied, to reach 18.93 million.

Spain added 1.61 million subscribers to reach 6.06 million, while France added 1.07 million to reach 4.22 million.

The research, which uses coverage and subscription figures obtained directly from operators, also revealed that the number of homes passed had risen 16 percent to reach over 148 million.

In terms of household penetration, measured in terms of the number of subscribers divided by the number of households, Latvia continued to lead Europe with a rate of 50.6 percent.

It was followed by Sweden at 43.4 percent, Lithuania at 42.6 percent and Russia at 37.9 percent.

Notable for its first ever inclusion in the ranking was Ireland with a penetration rate of 1.7 percent.

Operators on the Emerald Isle saw the number of subscribers rise by 73 percent or roughly 30,00, while the number of homes passed rose by 254 percent or 306,285.

The research also revealed that the share of homes passed by incumbents had risen from 21 percent in 2011 to reach 42 percent in 2017.

Alternative operators, which had been responsible for 71 percent of homes passed in 2011, have seen their share diminish to 54 percent.

In addition, the number of residential premises covered by municipalities and local authorities has fallen from eight percent to four percent over the period.

Commenting on the results, Roland Montagne, Head of Broadband Practice at IDATE, said: “For years telcos have been concentrating on deploying the networks.

“Now they want to commercialise it… [by] transforming homes passed into real subscribers.”

He added: “This trend started last year and accelerated this year.”

The analyst cited a number of approaches operators have taken to achieve this, including selling fibre at the same price as ADSL or bundling exclusive content with fibre, as BT has done in the UK.

Montagne said there was still a “window” for fibre investment ahead of large scale investments in 5G networks.

He added: “[Operators] know they will have to invest in 5G in two or three years.

“Capex today is going primarily to fixed because it will be shared after for the backhauling of mobile.”

He cited France as a strong motor for growth and identified Italy, the UK and Germany as future “reservoirs” of growth, where the likes of Open Fiber, Openreach and Deutsche Telekom respectively have recently announced new initiatives.

The FTTH Council released the figures alongside a new study on the socio-economic impact of the technology.

This surveyed 1,018 Swedish consumers, finding that 62 percent were satisfied by the higher range of services they get with FTTH and that 51 percent believe it provides better value for money than normal broadband.

They also reported an 83 percent satisfaction rate compared to 52 percent and 72 percent for DSL and cable respectively.

Among non-FTTH customers, 94 percent said they would consider subscribing to FTTH if it was made available in their area.

[Read more: Operators in praise for regulator shock as they explain Spain’s “zero to hero” fibre journey]

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