Broadband Trends 2017

27. February 2017

The debate on how to boost broadband expansion in Germany will remain one of the telecommunications market’s core issues in 2017 too. Factors driving calls for more bandwidth lie in streaming services via landlines and the simultaneous rise in mobile data traffic because more and more people are using smartphones and tablets. As well as investing in VDSL2/vectoring and therefore in traditional copper-based infrastructure, regional network operators are forging ahead with expanding optical fibre by partnering with housing companies for instance.

Even though the German Federal Network Agency’s vectoring decision in 2016 met with mixed responses, it nevertheless added momentum to the German broadband market. Deutsche Telekom has access to 8,000 main distribution frames in central offices from which customers are con-nected directly in order to supply around six million households with VDSL2/vectoring. As well as continuing to expand their vectoring infrastructure, regional and local competitors are focusing on FTTH and FTTB optical fibre connections. In KEYMILE’s view, three trends will dominate in 2017 and affect developments in the German telecommunications market.

1. Demand for more bandwidth to continue
Over the past few years video-on-demand has led to a steady increase in broadband requirements, a trend that shows no signs of abating in 2017 either. One indication is provided by current figures from market research institute HIS Markit that the German industry association Bitkom published in mid-January (1). From 2014 to 2016 sales of video-on-demand offerings jumped by 73%. In 2017 sales are set to increase by 18% to €945m compared with the previous year. The ad-financed offerings from video portals like YouTube will probably account for about 46% of sales. Forecasts indicate that a bigger chunk (some 54%) is likely to be attributed to video-streaming platforms that charge fees, from Amazon Prime Video to Maxdome and Netflix to Sky Online. At the same time, the current, high-resolution formats guzzle bandwidth. In the case of UHD and 4K programmes, a 50 Mbps connection can quickly reach its limits if several internet and streaming services are used at once.
Upload rates are playing an increasingly important role when assessing bandwidth demand. The use of cloud-based services, more intensive data exchange between users, plus changes in work-ing environments that allow digital nomads and therefore require powerful upstream speeds, are some of the reasons why.

2. A technology mix spawns acceleration of broadband growth
VDSL2/Vectoring/G.fast and comprehensive optical fibre expansion are part of a technology mix for the majority of German telecoms in order to push ahead with broadband expansion. Following the Federal Network Agency’s vectoring decision, previously postponed investment projects are now being implemented. While Deutsche Telekom’s concentrating on optical fibre connections to the central offices and outdoor cabinets (FTTC), regional and local competitors are taking a multi-pronged approach. They are developing their VDSL2/vectoring infrastructure and investing more and more in FTTH and FTTB. Munich-based telecommunications supplier M-net is for example planning on giving optical fibre connections to just under 70% of all households in the Bavarian capital over the next few years. Oldenburg’s telecommunications company EWE-Tel wants to in-vest €1bn in optical fibre expansion over the next few years. Other regional telecommunications service providers are concentrating on FTTB and partnering with owners of rental properties and housing companies to connect homes to their optical fibre networks.

3. Mobile data volume is growing sharply, but the landline’s not redundant
Over the past few years mobile data traffic has grown rapidly, with a large proportion accounted for by video streaming on smartphones and tablets(2). The bandwidth and transmission rates required have only been on offer since the widespread availability of LTE/4G. However, streaming services in the mobile telephone network quickly reach their limits. Wherever possible, for example in home or hotel lounges, users switch all their mobile devices from a mobile network to WiFi. This in turn leads to growing demand for bandwidth on landlines. The development of public WiFi hotspots, popular with all heavy users of smartphones and tablets, allows users to save on their data volume and relieves the pressure on mobile networks in the form of mobile offloading. However, landlines do see more data traffic as a result.

The landline network won’t be superfluous, even if the demand for bandwidth and data volume in mobile telephony networks continues to rise because of machine-to-machine communication (M2M) or the Internet of Things. Based on the facts currently available, 5G mobile telephony net-works can theoretically achieve data rates that are up to 100 times faster than today’s LTE net-works. But it will take several years until it reaches that point and during that period data transmis-sion rate in the landline network will also increase significantly.

“Providing broadband connections on a widespread basis will remain one of the most important projects in terms of structural policy over the next two to three years. To achieve this goal, the ma-jority of network operators employ a mix of VDSL2/Vectoring/G.fast and FTTB/FTTH,” explains Rolf Unterberger, KEYMILE CEO. “Without a doubt it’s end-to-end optical fibre connections in buildings that will have the highest bandwidths and be able to offer enough bandwidth over the next 15 years too; the technologies are already available. As a result, optical fibre expansion should see a noticeable acceleration, not just to the central offices and outdoor cabinets, but also right into homes.”

(1) Source: https://www.bitkom.org/Presse/Presseinformation/Umsatz-mit-Video-Streaming-knapp-an-der-Milliardengrenze.html
(2) Source: Study entitled “Die deutsche Internetwirtschaft 2015 – 2019” from eco – Verband der Internetwirtschaft e.V. and Arthur D. Little; it can be downloaded at: https://www.eco.de/wp-content/blogs.dir/studie_internetwirtschaft_2015-2019.pdf;)
(3) Source: https://www.ewe.com/de/presse/pressemitteilungen/2016/12/milliarden-zukunftsprojektewe-bringt-glasfaser-in-die-huser-ewe-ag
(4) Source: Study „Die deutsche Internetwirtschaft 2015 – 2019“ vom eco – Verband der Internet-wirtschaft e.V. und Arthur D. Little; it can be downloaded at: https://www.eco.de/wp-content/blogs.dir/studie_internetwirtschaft_2015-2019.pdf

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