Glass fiber: Production tsunami through gigabit strategy?

By 2030 fiber optic connections should be available for all households throughout Germany. The gigabit strategy of the federal government is intended to make this possible – the network operators fear a funding tsunami that could hinder their own economic expansion.

With the gigabit strategy adopted last summer, the federal government wants to achieve that by 2025 at least 50 percent and by 2030 all German households can be supplied with fiber optics. According to the experts Torsten J. Gerpott (holder of the chair for corporate and technology planning at the University of Duisburg-Essen) and Jürgen Grützner (managing director of the industry association VATM), the interim goal is not particularly ambitious. In view of the current expansion rates, according to Gerpott, 60 percent could even be achieved by 2025. After that, however, it becomes all the more difficult – according to the experts, what remains are areas where expansion is not worthwhile for companies or rural areas where the routes are longer and where it is also more difficult to achieve high booking rates because there are already gigabit for the most part.

Lack of commitment

In view of this situation, Gerpott is bothered by formulations such as “as soon as possible” or “will check” in the federal gigabit strategy – the economist lacks commitment. Specifically, he warns of reports on 40 to 50 billion euros in investment commitments from the economy within the next few years caution and advises against making practically everything eligible for funding with regard to the displacement situation in civil engineering capacities.According to Gerpott, a project is worthwhile for network operators with a pre-marketing rate of between one third and 50 percent.The take-up rate currently reported by Breko (Federal Association of Broadband Communication). 47 percent is therefore too high.

According to Grützner, investors also want to put their money into rural areas – but that takes time. For the VATM managing director, a state subsidy that does not drive investors out of the market is therefore decisive.

Funding as a central component

Contrary to the concerns of Grützner and Gerpott, Klaus Ritgen from the German District Association emphasizes that funding remains a central component, even if the government gives priority to self-sufficient expansion. According to him, the districts themselves can assess where there is potential for expansion. Even if this theoretically exists, funding should be possible. From January 1, 2023, some districts would submit applications for funding, but according to Ritgen’s forecast, the increase in the first quarter should be a one-off effect.