Ireland pips past UK to join European fibre-to-the-home league

20 Feb 2018

Image: Abd/Shutterstock

More than 1pc of Irish homes have subscribed to a FTTH service, so the country joins the European club.

Ireland is now part of the European fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) league table, achieving a threshold that the UK has yet to reach. The UK is forecast to join next year.

Entry to the league table depends on 1pc of households subscribing to a 100pc FTTH service.

Last week at the FTTH annual conference in Valencia, the FTTH Council published its 2018 Market Panorama, revealing that Ireland has passed the vital threshold.

Ireland is the 23rd member of the EU 28 to join, with Austria joining last year.

The fibre league

Ireland pips past UK in joining European FTTH league table

Click to enlarge. Graph: FTTH Council Europe

Sean Atkinson, CEO of Siro, joined BT Openreach, CityFibre, Open Fibre and Telia on the keynote operator-CEO panel, outlining how Siro is building 500,000 FTTH premises in 50 urban locations in Ireland in a €450m investment.

According to the table, Ireland has 1.7pc of households served with FTTH and fibre to the building (FTTB), ahead of Serbia (1.4pc) and Austria (1.1pc) and just behind Croatia (1.9pc).

Ireland is considerably low on the league table compared with Latvia, which has 50.6pc FTTH and FTTB, and Sweden, which has 43.4pc FTTH and FTTB.

At the panorama measurement date (30 September 2017), Ireland had 30,000 FTTH subscribers, up from 20,000 in June, which, according to a post by Stephen O’Connor, corporate affairs director at Siro, makes it the fastest-growing broadband segment in Ireland.

“With total Irish households estimated at around 2m, the 1pc penetration threshold was passed and Ireland joined the EU digital frontrunners,” O’Connor said.

“The fibre conversation has changed a lot in Ireland in recent years and the rate of market investment is at unprecedented levels.”

The figure may have moved on since then – in its recent financial results, Eir claimed that it has 21,000 FTTH connections.

A spokesperson for Siro told this morning (20 February) that the company has 16,500 FTTH customers.

“Ireland has circa 300,000 homes passed with 100pc fibre and clearly has ground to make up on our European peers, both in network build and penetration – EU 28 average penetration is 14pc – but being included in the panorama is a significant first step,” O’Connor said.

Tangled fibres

However, with Eir concentrating increasingly on 300,000 rural locations – it managed to distance itself from the National Broadband Plan (NBP) intervention area before sensationally leaving the process, just months after Siro did the same – it appears that the race for FTTH will be a mostly urban affair.

The future of the NBP – in its current form – now rests on one remaining consortium: Enet-SSE.

With negotiations ongoing, all eyes are on the consortium and the Government team driving the NBP to ensure that contracts are signed in September for the roll-out of fibre services to 540,000 premises.

The involvement of SSE – one of the ‘Big Six’ companies dominating the UK energy market, and owner of Airtricity, which serves 800,000 homes and businesses in Ireland with mostly renewable energy – portends a strategic vision where fibre united with electricity could define the future smart grid.

Combining power with broadband might end up being the bigger prize in the FTTH race further down the road, sparking a potential battle royale between Siro and the Enet-SSE consortium.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years