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Fibre optic expansion underway

Faster digital access in the north

Nearly all households today require fast internet with a stable connection and short charging times. People take part in video meetings on their home office laptops, stream the latest TV series and upload videos to group chats on their mobile phones – preferably all at the same time. When multiple users or devices access the internet simultaneously, the result is often disappointing: the connection fails, downloads take forever and smooth streaming is out of the question.

Fibre optic cables and fibre optic expansion are designed to remedy the situation by providing a fully functioning and fast internet connection, regardless of the number of users and their distance from the distribution box. Daily life depends on a fast and constant internet connection. EWE has been committed to this topic for decades and works every day as a strong partner for the region to bring northwest Germany into the digital age.

But what are fibre optics exactly? What connection options do fibre optics offer? What are the advantages of this technology, what is the current expansion situation in Germany, and how can EWE play a leading role in this expansion? We provide answers to these and other questions in this portrait of fibre optics. 


What is fibre optic expansion?

Fibre optics are currently the fastest option for data transmission

Fibre optic expansion describes the progress being made in laying fibre optic cables in Germany. As the name implies, fibre optics consist of a special glass fibre that transfers data – not through electrical signals like other cables, but via optical signals. This makes fibre optics the fastest way to transfer data on the internet, as fibre optic cables carry light impulses at the speed of light.

The expansion of broadband with fibre optics improves the internet experience as well as television signals and telephone connections. Rapid progress in the expansion of fibre optics is extremely important for digitalisation and future security in Germany. A distinction must be made between two expansion options: commercial and subsidised expansion.

Commercial expansion

With commercial expansion, private providers operate without government subsidies and at their own expense. Providers can decide for themselves where and to what extent they want to expand their fibre-optic network. EWE and Telekom AG have established the Glasfaser Nordwest joint venture, which will invest around two billion euros in commercial expansion in the next few years. This joint venture will ensure sustainable investment in northwest Germany.

Subsidised expansion

State funding programmes and aid enable the subsidised expansion of fibre optics. This focuses primarily on more thinly populated regions. Through a clever combination of commercial and subsidised expansion, the fibre-optic network in northern Germany is undergoing a rapid and targeted expansion. Within the EWE Group, EWE TEL GmbH focuses on activities related to subsidised expansion, and EWE TEL bids for government tenders for subsidised expansion areas.

Connection types: FTTC, FTTB and FTTH

As part of the expansion in Germany, fibre-optic cables are gradually replacing more and more old copper cables. However, there are still differences in the type and location of the fibre-optic connection. When expanding a fibre-optic network, a distinction is made between FTTC, FTTB and FTTH.

Infografik zu FTTC

FTTC: Fibre-to-the-Curb

Fibre-to-the-Curb refers to the first step of fibre optic expansion, in which fibre is laid to the distribution box at the curb. Data transmission between the exchange and the distribution box operates at maximum speeds. However, the data must still be routed from the distribution box to the individual households on the street. This path is also known as the last mile and uses the pre-existing copper wires, which limits data transmission to considerably slower rates.

Infografik für FTTB

FTTB: Fibre-to-the-Building

Fibre-to-the-Building takes broadband expansion with fibre optics one step further: the fibre-optic cable runs not only to the distribution box, but directly into the individual buildings – usually in the basement. From this point, copper cables connect the individual households, residential units or offices. The advantage over FTTC is that, instead of several hundred metres, an average of only 10 to 50 metres are bridged with copper. This results in less data transmission loss.

Infografik zu FTTH

FTTH: Fibre-to-the-Home

Fibre-to-the-Home refers to the complete expansion of the fibre-optic network, from the exchange to the individual household. Each consumer receives their own home connection and benefits from a continuous fibre-optic line and high data transmission speeds – no matter whether you're streaming your favourite film, working from home, or making a video call to your friends. Fibre-to-the-Home represents the most sustainable approach to household digitalisation.

How the expansion works

Advantages of fibre optics

EWE digitises the northwest

Bringing northwest Germany into the digital age - this is the goal that drives us at EWE. For decades, EWE has been one of the largest regional telecommunications providers in Germany. For a long time now, we have also been focusing increasingly on the expansion of our own fiber-optic network. Through the massive and rapid expansion of our region, we enable households, municipalities and companies alike to participate in digital life. Because fiber-optic roll-out is important to us, we have joined forces with Deutsche Telekom to establish the Glasfaser Nordwest joint venture, which will invest around two billion euros in the coming years in the roll-out of fiber-optic lines in our marketing area - a clear commitment to roll-out and, at the same time, a digital centerpiece for the region.

EWE is the Strong Digital Partner in the North

Our fiber-optic network already consists of around 40,000 kilometers, which offer very high transmission capacities. For us, it is clear that a massive and rapid expansion of fiber-optic networks is the basis for the digitization of the north and also for the digitization of the energy transition.

Rapid expansion with the help of sensible policies

To ensure rapid expansion of the necessary infrastructure, a sensible combination of self-supported expansion and expansion supported by subsidy programs is needed. A fast pace places the focus here on own expansion by private companies. Subsidized expansion must take place where it is really needed and not where private expansion is necessary and possible or has already taken place. By intelligently combining both options, Germany can move into the digital age much faster and more efficiently. This requires a sensible and correct political framework. Here, too, EWE is active and advises policymakers. Thanks to our long experience in the market, we can make a valuable contribution to shaping the political framework. For example, rapid and targeted expansion must be ensured.

Rapid expansion needs a political framework

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We are expanding - perhaps already in your region?

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Comparison: Fiber optics, copper or 5G?

The biggest difference between fiber optic and copper cable is their transmission speed: copper lines enable DSL connections at speeds of 16 to 32 Mbps. Using broadband such as fiber optics can significantly increase these figures: VDSL broadband corresponds to the FTTC mentioned above - fiber optics is laid up to the distribution box, while copper is used for the last mile. In this way, speeds of 50 to 100 Mbit/s can already be achieved. A full fiber optic connection (FTTH), on the other hand, offers transmission speeds of up to 1,000 Mbit/s in upload and download.

In addition, there are no transmission losses when using fiber to the home - but if copper cables are involved, the distance to the distribution box and the usage patterns of other households in the street and building affect the bandwidth. With FTTC and FTTB, for example, a lower bandwidth may arrive at the home's own connection than originally booked. Fiber optics, on the other hand, enable a loss-free and stable Internet connection regardless of the number of users and the distance to the distribution box.

Mobilfunk-Turm im Sonnenuntergang
5G could soon become the next mobile communications standard. EWE welcomes the expansion of a nationwide infrastructure in Germany.

In addition to the expansion of fiber optics, everyone is currently talking about the expansion of the 5G network: 5G stands for fifth generation and is a new mobile network standard. This can also be useful for the Internet: Using transmission towers, 5G broadband can overcome the last mile through a wireless network connection - instead of physically using copper cable or fiber broadband. While this offers the possibility of providing fast Internet to households and businesses in commercial areas up to the final FTTH fiber connection at low construction costs, such a network is not possible everywhere: the radio-frequency waves emitted sometimes only have a short range of a few 100 meters and can be affected by trees, walls and insulation materials. In addition, the transmission towers are very susceptible to maintenance and can quickly be put out of action by external influences such as the weather or even vandalism.

Fiber optic cables, on the other hand, lie safely and securely underground and are very resource-efficient in operation because no electricity is needed in the distribution boxes. Fiber optic technology is therefore future-proof and offers companies in the economy a competitive advantage. Private households also increase the value of their property with a fiber optic connection. In the future, the technology will also develop even further, so that fiber optics will even enable speeds in the terrabit range.

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