The 13th edition of the FTTH Council Europe Conference in Luxembourg is upbeat about future demand for fibre but in the first few sessions also highlighted the limitations and some of the challenges of trying to roll out FTTH/B to end users in Europe.
Legacy infrastructure, clunky regulation and bad business models can hinder progress in rolling out FTTH/B, the various speakers at the conference warned. Infrastructure in some countries has not kept up with the user patterns of millennials that are already dominating the workplace, as well as disruptive services and technologies that are springing up especially in the fintech industries.
In addition, the digital divide in rural areas within some parts of Europe is bigger than ever before, adversely impacting social and economic cohesion. As a result of some of these factors, FTTH/B countries in Europe, especially those with legacy infrastructure, lag far behind those in Asia and the Middle East (see FTTH Global ranking chart).
However, while this may sound bleak for Europe, speakers looked at the various ways in which these issues can be tackled: from funding sources for EU FTTH projects, to examples in other countries with similar issues, but which have successfully made the change to fibre like New Zealand, to how innovative solutions, technologies and products available can help make rural FTTH roll out commercially attractive. For those that have the benefit of FTTH rollouts, there were presentations on how the industry can leverage this further by taking advantage of emerging applications, including Smart Home and Smart Services.
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The conference, which is one of the biggest trade conferences in Europe, was opened by Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister and Minister for Communications and Media of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Bettel outlined the benefits of making the move to fibre early and how his government and incumbent POST worked collaboratively to achieve this goal. At the conference, Luxembourg's POST won the FTTH Operator Award in recognition of rolling out advanced fibre networks since 2010.
Günther H Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society, made an impassioned speech pre-recorded specially for the event stressing the need to improve broadband connections, especially in rural areas. He reminded operators that networks need to be future proof warning that Europe will otherwise be left behind.
Edgar Aker, president of the FTTH Council Europe, talked about the various issues and challenges faced by the fibre industry, operators, regulators and end-users. To read Aker's view on these, please read CRU Wire & Cable News' interview and pre-conference feature: "FTTH Council Europe calls on industry to think 'future proof'
Ruud Hendriks, entrepreneurial icon in the Netherlands, shared his experience and vision in an inspirational keynote speech, in which he outlined the main trends driving technology and user behaviours today.
The FTTH Conference remains the world's largest FTTH-focused event, attracting more than 3,000 participants from 85 Countries. This year, 95 exhibitors hosted the event, which included over 100 high-level presentations and cases studies from distinguished speakers.
The 14th edition of the FTTH Conference will be held from February 14 to 16, 2017 in Marseille, France.