Everyone agrees, at least when it comes to the goals: by 2030, every household in Germany should be able to have a fiber optic connection. This is the central building block of the gigabit strategy that Federal Digital Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is currently working on. The telecom companies have already joined the demand. And indeed, more households will be connected to the fiber optic network this year than ever before.
Eight years to full supply. That sounds like a lot of time at first. However, experts speak of an ambitious plan. Because fiber optic expansion is a Herculean task that requires a lot of digging in Germany.
According to figures from the Association of Providers of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services (VATM), a good ten million of the approximately 42 million German households are currently able to book a fiber optic connection – a year ago it was a good million fewer. For around a quarter of households, the lines have yet to be laid.
And that’s expensive. Depending on the location, laying the lines to a house can cost the operator several thousand euros. But there doesn’t seem to be a lack of money. “Until 2025, companies have an investment potential of ten to twelve billion euros per year for the expansion of fixed and mobile networks,” says Bernhard Rohleder, CEO of the digital association Bitkom. “This means that up to 50 billion euros of privately financed funds can flow into the network expansion in this legislative period.”
The difficulties lie elsewhere. The civil engineering capacities in Germany are exhausted. The telecom companies are even hiring construction crews in Spain in order to be able to lift their expansion. And they are demanding approvals for laying methods that are cheaper than before.
Instead of digging deep, they would prefer to lay their lines closer to the surface, only opening up asphalt and sidewalks a small crack. But the building authorities won’t allow it.
Most people in Germany use a broadband connection via the DSL copper cable or via a TV cable network. While DSL technology cannot achieve gigabit speeds, the TV cable network can. But fiber optics are more reliable and can reach even higher speeds.
According to VATM figures, 30.5 million households are currently within reach of 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.
As much as experts and politicians are pushing for fiber optic networks to be expanded quickly, users are reluctant to connect to them. According to the Federal Network Agency, not even every third household opts for such a connection, even if it were technically possible.
Since the tariffs are usually higher here than with other networks, they choose the cheaper option – and stick with their DSL connection. Apparently they see no need for gigabit yet. As a result, most users do not book gigabit speeds at all, even if they connect to the gigabit networks. Because here, too, you can book slower speeds and choose cheaper tariffs.
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