Over the past eight years, high-speed fiber accessed via fixed-broadband Internet grew to 25% versus 12%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international group created to help member governments foster prosperity and combat poverty.
For years of course, that mission includes a country's broadband infrastructure -- availability, speed, reliability and cost -- as well as residents' ability to use the Internet, with checks on literacy, lack of censorship and affordability of connected devices. While it's great to see advances, it's still surprisingly shocking to note both the wide disparity in nations and the long way some countries must still go to attain majority-connectivity status, often despite heavy investments by public and private groups.
Fiber is not, of course, the only way to measure a region's high-speed broadband. There's a strong argument that many multi-dwelling units (MDUs) -- particularly older apartments, coops or condos, privately-owned or held by a family or small group of investors -- are unlikely to approve fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Rather, Gfast over copper connected to fiber-to-the-basement or curb is a more attractive alternative for landlords. It's important, however, for providers to ensure they're using the most current Gfast equipment. Otherwise some tenants will complain and then no doubt move out, as soon as possible.
In fact, early today I skimmed a Reddit post complaining about a tenant's inability to have FTTH installed, on her dime, after the DSL broadband proved inadequate for her high-speed gaming needs. Respondents provided multiple workarounds, and agreed this is a common issue (with several suggesting a better approach is to act first, apologize later). Having rented many apartments in private homes over the years, I don't know if that's the best route the getting back your security deposit though!
Still, OECD used fiber deployments as its yardstick for this report. It's certainly as good a measure as any, and those using fiber definitely connect at the speeds necessary for today's use cases.
Rich in fiber
Unsurprisingly to anyone who's read any report comparing countries' broadband availability or speed, Korea maintains its hold on the top-spot, with the share of fiber in broadband totaling more than 78% in the second quarter of 2018, OECD found. That's an increase of 12.6% from 69.7% in Q2 2015. Japan, which placed second at 77.3% in Q2 2018 grew a more modest 6.49% from 72.6% three years prior, while 72% of third-place Lithuania's broadband infrastructure was fiber in the second quarter of last year versus 60.9% in Q2 2015 -- up 18.4%.
However, Ireland had the most dramatic fiber growth: It saw a surge of 218% in fiber subscriptions by Q2 2018, although penetration is still only 4.3% compared with a miserly 0.3% in mid-2015. In part, deployments by Eir and ESB-Vodafone joint venture Siro (which is investing €450 million -- or about $511 million -- in a fiber network aimed at 50 regional towns in the Republic), as well as Magnet Networks, Digiweb and Enet, are driving this and future growth, according to The Irish Times.
Belgium's fiber subscriptions growth of 71% was impressive -- but the actual numbers remain teeny: 0.56% in Q2 2018 from 0.2% in Q2 2015. Australia, though, saw real pick-up: About 12 months ago, 44.62% of subscribers used fiber versus 6.4% in 2015, accounting for 70% growth.
(Source: OECD Broadband Portal)
What's the plan?
Lowest on the list of 77 countries was Greece. The government only recently exited the legal woes associated with several international economic hardships, so it's unlikely a national plan -- funded by already tapped-out taxpayers -- would gain any traction at all, at least until now. But let's be optimistic for the nation, which most likely already has much higher usage rates. In summer 2018, OTE Group, Greece's largest telco, debuted its FTTH implementation after spending €2 billion ($2.34 billion) between 2012 and 2018 developing a 43,000-km fiber optic network, according to Reuters.
Belgium is next, followed by the United Kingdom -- where 1.52% of subscribers use fiber, OECD reported. That is a big jump from 0.3% in 2015 but an awfully low percentage given the amount of discussion and headlines Members of Parliament have generated on this topic, the number of committees and meetings, and amount of money reportedly expended. Perhaps the latest iteration -- a mix of private initiatives from the likes of wholesaler CityFibre and telco Vodafone, plus government funding labeled for true gigabit broadband will finally deliver better connectivity to the British public.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.