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Germany is expanding fiber optics – but citizens despise using it

When it comes to the use of fast fiber optic networks, Berlin brings up the rear in Germany with only three percent of households.

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Germany is expanding fiber optics – but citizens despise using it

When it comes to the use of fast fiber optic networks, Berlin brings up the rear in Germany with only three percent of households. In Schleswig-Holstein, on the other hand, almost every fifth household uses fiber optics to surf the Internet.

The current market analysis by the broadband association Breko, which represents more than 230 network operators in Germany, shows how far the country is falling apart when it comes to this important future technology.

Overall, every fourth household in Germany currently has the option of connecting to the fast fiber optic network. That corresponds to 12.7 million households. The lines for quick access are within easy reach for these households, mostly on the street or in the house. Providers then connect interested parties directly to the lines if they so wish.

But the differences in the expansion between the federal states are large: Schleswig-Holstein is also at the top when it comes to technical availability, more than six out of ten households could be connected here, in Berlin it is only one in ten households. At 25 percent, Bavaria is around the national average, and Hamburg comes second with almost 60 percent.

In its gigabit strategy, the traffic light coalition has specified clear goals for further expansion. By 2025, every second household in Germany should have the opportunity to use the fast fiber optic network, and by 2030 it should be available nationwide.

It remains questionable whether the goal can really be achieved. "The current difficult situation due to the global political situation also affects the companies involved in fiber optic expansion," said Breko President Norbert Westfal when presenting the market analysis. "Price increases, delivery bottlenecks and a shortage of skilled workers not only affect the citizens, they are also clearly noticeable in the expansion."

Nevertheless, there is an opportunity to achieve the Federal Government's very ambitious goals. "But for this we need the support of politicians at federal, state and local level in order to jointly create the conditions for rapid expansion and to remove existing hurdles in a targeted and rapid manner."

Above all, the associations and companies are calling for self-sufficient expansion to be given priority over subsidies because they fear rising costs due to the additional demand for civil engineering capacities. In addition, the subsidized expansion takes longer because of the extensive procedures.

The companies are also pushing for the approval processes in the municipalities to be accelerated and digitized. "The fax machines in the offices must finally be a thing of the past," said Breko President Westphalia.

Companies in Germany are currently building fiber optic networks at high speed. According to Breko figures, growth last year was around a third. This puts Germany in second place after France within the EU.

Nevertheless, the Germans still seem to be reluctant to book connections. The number of households that already have a connection to their house or apartment was 8.1 million last year.

Of these, however, only 3.8 million households actually booked a tariff for the connection. That is less than 50 percent. Compared to the 12.7 million households that at least had fiber optics on the street in the middle of the year, the rate falls again.

This shows that many Internet users are apparently still satisfied with their current connections. Because fast connections are also available via the TV cable and – with a slightly lower speed – also via the copper cable from Deutsche Telekom.

While fiber optic connections are capable of higher Internet speeds, many consumers do not seem to see the benefit. This also applies to the TV cable. Here the take-up rate is even 20 percentage points below that in fiber optic networks.

Both the fiber optic and the TV cable connections achieve gigabit speeds. According to figures from the Association of Providers of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services (VATM), 30.5 million households are currently within range of such a gigabit network, two-thirds of them only via the TV cable. After all, 5.3 million households can choose between a gigabit connection via the TV cable and a connection via the fiber optic network.

But that doesn't mean that the gigabit will also be booked. In fact, according to Breko, at the end of last year only 1.4 million Internet users in Germany booked a tariff of one gigabit per second or faster. One gigabit per second is four times as fast as the fastest DSL connection from Deutsche Telekom - and is theoretically enough for the simultaneous transmission of 40 Netflix films in Ultra HD quality (4K).

Fiber optic connections with gigabit speeds are more expensive than previous tariffs via TV or DSL cable. This is the main reason why users should hold back when booking, especially since nobody can watch 40 Netflix films at the same time.

Private users who book the gigabit via fiber optics today are making a kind of advance payment. The copper cable can hardly be accelerated, and the possibilities in the TV cable are also limited. This will not apply to fiber optics in the foreseeable future.

According to the forecasts, the required bandwidths will continue to increase in the future, not least because video is increasingly being streamed. New applications, for example for augmented and virtual reality environments, are also likely to be data-hungry.

In his analysis, Breko assumes that the average download speed of a broadband connection will increase from 159 megabits per second today to 844 megabits in five years. The amount of data transmitted via a landline is increasing by around a third every year.

Breko explains that there are such big differences in the fiber optic quota between the federal states with the previous framework conditions. In the past, for example, Berlin was well supplied with fast TV cable and VDSL connections, so that the demand for and the expansion of fiber optic connections was kept within limits. But here, too, the expansion is picking up speed.

In fact, rural areas are currently expanding faster than cities because fiber optic providers have fewer competitors there. Schleswig-Holstein, on the other hand, recognized the need for fiber optic networks early on, promoted them and concluded a pact with the companies.

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