The fibre king of Germany

Dr. Stephan Albers, VD Bundesverband Breitbandkommunikation e.V (BREKO)

The question from Mikael Ek to his German collogue, Dr. Stephan Albers

In Sweden, we have had “fiber fever” for several years, where both households and companies have a strong demand for fiber connection. What do you see as the single most important effort to create an equivalent demand in Germany?

Dr Stepan Albers answers:
The coronavirus pandemic has made citizens and companies in Germany more aware of the importance of an efficient and stale digital infrastructure. Fibre rollout is now a hot topic in the public discourse, and the demand from the society and business is increasing. We have also finally overcome the issue of vectoring, that is to say, extending the service life of existing coppas networks in Germany. This has now opened the door for the transition to fibre.

7 other questions I would like to ask you:

What is your view on the digitalization of Germany, in the light of service offerings to society? Is fibre a key driver? 

“Germany needs to become more agile and more digital in many areas. For example, Germany has a lot of catching up in digital education, digital administration and digital health solutions. We need more courage to use digital technologies as key problem solutions. In order to exploit the potential of digitalization and to enable the development of innovative digital services, Germany needs the best digital infrastructure. That means futureproof fibre networks serving every building and home. With extensive fibre networks as the lifeline of digitalization, we seek to make Germany a more attractive business location and create the basis for more accessible living and working conditions both in cities ad across the country.” 

How do you see the discussion about “open networks” (the Swedish model) with equal opportunities and conditions for every provider?

“This is also an important issue in Germany. Open access corporation is becoming increasingly important in the German fibre market. Instead of overbuilding existing or planned fibre networks, fair cooperation models are a key for accelerated deployment. In Germany, for example see and emerging cooperation model between municipal utilities and private network operators.” 

How are your thoughts about the attitude towards fibre networks - has it changed in the past couple of years? Maybe due to the Pandemic? Previously, there was an attitude that "it is not needed " until now in the ongoing and post-pandemic era, everyone wonders why they do not already have it? Is that true?

“Absolutely. The attitude has changed fundamentally in politics as well as in the wider society and amongst businesses in recent years. The clear focus is on achieving fibre deployment as quickly as possible. The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced this trend further and underscored the importance of stable, secure and high-performance internet connectivity.”

The old legacy of CU networks; coax, telephone (xDSL) is still in place, why is that?

“The fibre network coverage reached 15 % in mid-2020. VDSL and coax networks are still largely relevant since many households still have no possibility of switching to fibre connection. We see, however, that there is a reconsideration among businesses that rely on copper and coax networks. Deutche Telekom, for example, is now also relying on fibre expansion. This development is the result of increased competition led to a large extent by fibre network operators represented in BREKO, ultimately bringing about a strategic shift in the behavior of DT.”

There are many different actors in Germany; DT, Vodafone, SW etc. - how do you think the collaboration between them works and has worked? What role does BREKO play in "gathering everyone around the table" and taking responsibility for the societys infrastructure - like it´s done for Autobahns and electricity?

“The topic of collaboration is currently on everyone´s minds. No company, regardless of its size, will be able to build a nationwide fibre network in Germany by itself. To achieve this, we need the joint efforts of all network operators. In BREKO alone, more than 220 telecommunications network operators are working to accelerate the deployment of fibre across Germany. The rollout of the digital infrastructure for citizens and companies is major challenge that our members face. We want to deploy as quickly as possible, but as with all infrastructure projects, it will not happen overnight. We will need to work on it diligently for the next few years.”

What´s you view on developing of services, internet versus High Value-services for citizens? (such as elderly care monitored digital.)

“We will see a lot of new developments in digital applications over the next months and years. The greatest challenges of our time, namely the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crises, are also drivers of digitalization. Transition to a more sustainable and green future will only succeed with the help of digital technologies. Germany must finally become a digital nation that not only uses these services, but also innovates them.”

The Government invest a lot in FTTH expansion. What is the aim and goals? If "high-value services" for households enter, this will require connections with higher availability / security / priority / quality than business services. What is you view on that subject?

“The political objective is to build a nationwide fibre network in Germany. The question is whether more state funding will help to achieve this objective more swiftly. We have a very critical stance on this. Sufficient monetary means are already available through numerous investors such as pension funds, insurers and financial entities on the market. Network operators represented in BREKO will invest more than 20 billion euros in fibre deployment over the next few years alone. Public funding is useful as a supplementary tool only in those cases where market-based investment through private funds is not viable. These cases include, for example, areas where internet supply is particularly poor and where there is no commercially viable economic basis to rollout fibre in upcoming years. The quickest way for us to reach our objective is through a meaningful and complementary interplay between market-based private investment and supplementary public financing where necessary.”