PETER DYKES VINCENT GARNIER Q&A
follow the evolution and the rollout of plans which are not, of course, synchronised. For example, with a provider moving from Spain or France after finishing its rollout within one or two years, its people could go on to another country to do the same thing, being trained. But that transition requires a little bit of anticipation.
because it could be a bottleneck, preventing the subscriber from benefiting from the service. So, it’s a question of technology and also of service from the service provider’s perspective. It’s also an opportunity to sell additional services and to engage in a better relationship compared to the one they commonly have as a utility. So that’s an interesting challenge and opportunity to look at in-home connectivity. Copper switch off is where we’re all heading to when a country which has a coverage of 50% and above. Really the strategy to decommission the legacy copper network very often has to be put in place, because it doesn’t make sense to maintain two networks in parallel. There are countries which are far ahead, but many still have a lot of work to do to put in place the appropriate plans and that involves the incumbents and the regulators, because it has multiple impacts on the market. PD Is there still a skill shortage and if so, is it particularly an issue for European infrastructure providers working across a number of different countries?
The advertising around fibre is one issue. It’s very difficult to sell the benefits of fibre when you have previously during the last 10 years promoted hybrid technologies (copper + fibre) as being fibre. So, if you have used the word fibre in your advertising to promote hybrid solutions which include fibre but do not provide the full fibre performance, it becomes extremely difficult to knock at the door of a customer and say, “Do you want fibre?” The answer will be, “But I have fibre. You told me three years ago that I had fibre.” The Council communicated around that problem in 2020 (see FTTH Council Europe’s publication Identifying European Best Practice in Fibre Advertising). Indeed, some countries have independently implemented legislation to prevent this kind of misleading advertising and avoid confusion, however, others have not. In the UK that battle has been brought to court by some operators and they failed because the law in terms of advertising seems to be less strict in the UK. But the rollout needs to be strictly full fibre to be able to use the word fibre and we now have a misleading situation, and same thing is happening in some Eastern European countries. Another issue is that it’s difficult sometimes to simply get acceptance, because it’s a change, it’s disturbing and some people don’t see the value and don’t want to be disturbed. This does however highlight a difference between a single house and multi dwelling units. It’s easier to deal with a well organised building with 300 people living in it rather than individual homes where you need to drill the wall to bring the fibre inside. There are also considerations in terms of the price of fibre versus price of alternatives. There are multiple parameters’ so our report is going to study in detail eight countries, analyse all factors which could be helping take- up and others which could be obstacles and following another a review, make some recommendations.
The FTTH Council Europe’s event is being held in Spain this year. Is there any particular
reason for choosing that country?
Spain is a good example of fibre rollout because it has already reached over 80% coverage and
is leading the rest of Europe in that respect. We can learn from the way the country has successfully managed the deployment of fibre and also from how they are managing the current situation, as they are already actively proceeding with copper switch off. Spain is also managing and organising the market from a different perspective which is: we need to make it profitable; we need to monetize the network and we need to optimise things, so I think the lessons are interesting from Spain.
It is still an issue. I mean, it is an issue everywhere in Europe, and not only for our industry, but it’s
definitely an issue in our industry for the countries where there is very high ambition to roll out in a very short amount of time. The UK is a typical example where there are so many operators, so many ambitious providers, and every one of them is really eager to develop its footprint and roll out as fast as possible. Clearly, skill shortage is a big problem, indeed Germany is facing the same thing. And
then, at the European level the difficulty is, can you move the
workforce from one country to another one easily? It’s at that point that you see that the small details matter, such as language and culture, because technical skill is not the only problem. You not only need staff for splicing fibre, but you also need staff to discuss with local authorities and to talk to the people where you are making the connections. So it’s not only an operational issue, it’s not only technical, it requires a variety of, of skills, and of course, when you have such a surge in the investment, it’s difficult to get everything local. So one of the challenges is how do you move the competencies and the skills between different European markets to
What else could be done to encourage take-up?
The other interesting challenge ahead of us is the concept of home connectivity. Bringing one
gigabit or potentially more to the doorstep doesn’t necessarily mean that customers will receive the same bandwidth on their devices because in between, there is in-home connectivity. Very often it’s WiFi, or
Vincent Garnier Director General, FTTH Council Europe.
sometimes it’s cabled, but what happens inside premises matters
ISSUE 32 | Q1 2023
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