Connecting rural Germany with FTTH technology

Connecting rural Germany with FTTH technology

As new technologies continue to proliferate, growing impetus has been placed on utilising full-fibre technology by service providers and governments to provide high-speed broadband for homes and businesses. Rolling out FTTH technology is no longer a choice but a necessity to connect the rural communities. Ralf Gorontzi, Managing Director for Emtelle GmbH, explains why Deutsche Glasfaser adopted Emtelle’s innovative technology.

Emtelle, an industry-leading manufacturer of pre-connectorised cabling, blown fibre and ducted network solutions, with manufacturing facilities across Europe, provides a full solution offering to its clients across the industry. This offering ranges from support from its technical solutions team, to tailored installation training and certification of general contractors worldwide.

With the unrivalled growth of emerging technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), end-users’ expectations have been heightened. In order to meet the increased demands of consumers wanting to stream services easily and quickly and the growing data consumption rate, service providers are turning to fibre to help provide ultrafast and consistent broadband.

Offering much higher bandwidth, providers are realising the immense benefits which Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) and Fibre-To-The-Building (FTTB) can provide over all the alternatives. As FTTH rollouts become more widespread, operators must be sure to embrace these new technologies or risk being left behind. This will ensure they are able to expand their customer offerings in order to generate new revenue streams. Harnessing these new technologies and unlocking the immense benefits is only possible if their networks can support and enable them.

Fibre is the answer

Fibre technology is future-proof and the ideal choice for businesses looking to ensure consumers can access a platitude of services and live in a way that is better for the environment. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases omitted into the atmosphere, fibre networks require much lower amounts of energy to operate and fibre has the ability to provide high-speed Internet access right to a consumer’s doorstep. However, there remains a shortage of trained fibre engineers and technicians in the industry with the skillsets needed to drop fibre to the home en masse.

While deployment costs and fibre skills gaps remain problematic hurdles for some operators, fibre adoption rates are on the rise. Last year saw an increase of 21% in the number of FTTH and FTTB subscribers. Delivering the highest speed of broadband right to offices, businesses and homes and eradicating potential bottlenecks in the network to ensure the greatest efficiency, fibre is becoming the technology of choice and replacing cable and copper-based solutions in the market.

Germany’s fibre mission

Germany’s fibre market continues to grow, and this is forecasted to rise by a 551% evolution rate of FTTH/B Homes passed and 1006% evolution of FTTH/B subscriptions by 2025. A growth in government incentives to migrate to full-fibre solutions has compounded the need and greater adoption rate. The coalition agreement of the German Federal Government saw the goal of a national expansion of gigabit networks by 2025 outlined, along with the plan to expand fibre infrastructure in schools and local enterprises in each region of Germany. The German government supports rural FTTH projects with allocated funding of up to €30 million and the German funding programme outlines a special material concept prescribing a minimum of 10/6mm microducts for connecting homes.

However, similar to many countries across Europe, the challenge remains in connecting rural areas across Germany with full-fibre technology. In rural areas, it can be difficult for broadband providers to connect homes with a fibre-connected street cabinet due to the vast distance between houses. This added distance from the cabinet ultimately means slower Internet speeds. Compared to cities, the environment of the countryside may make it challenging to even lay fibre in the first place. Out-of-date infrastructure and the high expense needed to rectify this can also put off service providers from taking much-needed action.

But it is clear that pre-installed and pre-connectorised fibre solutions are the way forward and many service operators remain determined in providing broadband to rural communities and addressing this urgent need. In September 2019, Emtelle and leading FTTH provider, Deutsche Glasfaser (DGF), entered into a strategic partnership worth €63 million, establishing Emtelle as a key player in helping facilitate Germany’s nationwide FTTH project. Having worked together since 2012, the new 36-month contract builds on their budding relationship. Emtelle’s range of solutions was identified to overcome the challenges of building complex and large-scale fibre deployments and enable the rollout of ultra-fast connectivity to the outmost rural areas of Germany, quickly and cost-effectively.

As Deutsche Glasfaser continues to grow, the two companies both share the same objective of targeting rural Germany and connecting the unconnected.

Partnership to savour

Deutsche Glasfaser, which was looking to establish an ultra-fast broadband network across all regions of the country, adopted Emtelle’s innovative approach in overcoming technical and financial challenges. A world leader in blown fibre technology, Emtelle, has experience in deploying its lightweight, reliable and robust infrastructure system based on microducts in a number of diverse and challenging projects across the globe. Deutsche Glasfaser selected Emtelle as the primary and sole solution provider over two other tier-1 fibre optic competitors for its range of solutions, which are 100% quality checked and battle-tested, its high-quality fibre and cabling end-to-end solution and its competitive pricing.

The partnership led to Deutsche Glasfaser deploying Emtelle’s complete passive FibreFlow solution and Multifu to support its rapid network expansion. Utilising Emtelle’s enhanced 4mm tube bundles with the use of its 12 and 24-way Multifu, Emtelle’s solution is easy to install and assemble, increases rollout speeds, reduces skills requirements and minimises installation times. From day one, Emtelle Multifu – the pre-installed fibre solution – ensured a cost reduction for Deutsche Glasfaser as there was no blowing or splicing required and it increased the number of homes connected ready for take up from day one. Operators are no longer fazed with increased expense as Multifu has lower upgrade and maintenance costs for the lifetime of the network and can be adapted for low-cost construction techniques such as narrow trench and shallow depth burial.

Emtelle’s FibreFlow solution incorporates microducts from 3mm to 20mm with fibre counts from 2-432 and a range of fibre bundles and cables which can be blown into Emtelle microducts. A range of customer entry systems, termination boxes and patchcords complements the delivery of the home package of Emtelle’s solution. Easily accessed and configured to drop directly to the home or business, Emtelle’s RTRYVA solution – which is a highly flexible duct system that can be accessed at any point along its length – and 7mm tube bundles have been supplied to support the network upgrade in certain areas. Emtelle’s 10/6mm solutions meets the requirements and covers the government funded areas of the project.

With Deutsche Glasfaser being an established and fast-growing FTTH network provider in Germany, Emtelle’s solutions have already been deployed in Germany’s largest state and progressed in Western Germany. Plans have been set in place to continue the deployments in the north before addressing the east side of the country. With Emtelle having secure and growing capabilities at its manufacturing facility in central Germany and a knowledgeable sales team that covers the entire country, it made the perfect foundation for Deutsche Glasfaser and Emtelle to build on their already prosperous partnership.

Emtelle is aiming to make significant progress in Germany and further afield throughout Europe with plans to extend site capacity and solution offerings in the pipeline. Recent notable investments have included the acquisition of Moore GmbH in Erfurt, Germany, and more recently, the introduction of a new state-of-the-art termination house within the group’s Head Office in Hawick, Scotland. Emtelle continues to invest in developments which enables it to service the market more seamlessly than ever before with multisite working and increased manufacturing, stock holding and logistics capability.

Meeting the needs of the future

With consumer demands rising with the growth of bandwidth-hungry applications, providers are in need of solutions which can satisfy this craving for years to come.

Allinq Networks GmbH is a general contractor for Deutsche Glasfaser and therefore responsible for planning, installation (civil engineering and house connections) and documentation of the networks.

The portfolio of its services extends from broadband consulting, broadband planning (all service phases), implementation and documentation of broadband networks. Allinq Germany has already implemented more than 70,000 Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) connections (house connections) as the general contractor.

Jon Pijnacker, CEO of Allinq Networks GmbH, offers a deeper insight into why the customer, Deutsche Glasfaser, selected Emtelle’s offering and some of the benefits produced.

Why has Deutsche Glasfaser chosen to work with Emtelle?

One of the most important points for Allinq Networks GmbH was to have a complete solution, and Emtelle offers full system solutions with system warranty for Allinq and Deutsche Glasfaser. We needed One-Stop-Shopping and the compatibility for tested and certified cables with microducts. Our experience with other competitors during the blowing process was not as good as our experience with Emtelle. We have great support from Emtelle’s sales team and its ability to provide installation training is especially important because of the market growth and the need for more labour and more training.

What challenges were you looking to address?

The main challenge was having a labour shortage concerning installation capacity and facing delays due to missing installers. Due to the permanent changing of subcontractors, we found it difficult regarding approval of the network and the warranty time of the network. The installation training from Emtelle helped us a lot and ensured fast market growth, as we gained more and more customers – but making the preliminary network contracts with end-customers always takes a long time (three-six months).

What were the benefits to infrastructure operations and to your customers/end-users?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the end-users required an important fast broadband connection like never before. The home office is getting more and more state-of-the-art, especially in rural areas where a lot of customers ask for a FTTH connection as they are aware that video calls or sharing large files is not possible without ultrafast broadband. FTTH connections have been defined as ‘critical infrastructure’ by the German government, so Allinq was allowed to continue building rural connections in these unprecedented times.

How has Emtelle’s solutions helped future-proof the company?

Allinq demands constant development and adaptation to new technologies and Emtelle is innovative and open-minded for new future-proofed solutions. Emtelle developed some customised solutions together with Allinq. Products have to be fail-proof during installation to guarantee a future-proof network and Emtelle always aims to develop high-class products that are easy to understand and install. Its full solution package is very helpful as customers need it to be flexible for the future – not only ducts or single components. Emtelle is one of the only full system suppliers in Europe and its factory in Erfurt, Germany, is seen as a positive for the future as it guarantees flexibility and reliable supply.

How much of the deployment has been completed so far?

In 2019, 15,000 households for Deutsche Glasfaser were completed, with a further 3,000 households from other carriers. Therefore, 18,000 in total (mostly rural), which provided a 300km backbone through Germany. A further 20,000 households are planned to be completed in Germany in 2020. In the Netherlands, 25,000 households were completed in 2019 (for EQT Infrastructure and KPN).

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