Network Day 2022: Telekom wants to accelerate FTTH expansion and the 5G network

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Deutsche Telekom has increased the goals it set itself for the FTTH expansion in Germany. From 2024, an increase in newly connected FTTH households of 3 instead of 2.5 million per year is to be achieved. By 2030, 25 to 30 million households are planned. Before that, however, all households were mentioned.

Telekom is stepping on the gas with fiber optic and FTTH expansion and has adjusted its own specifications for today's Network Day in Bonn. An upward correction can be seen in the new figures, but the company is less specific elsewhere than it was a year ago.

900,000 FTTH connections are needed

First of all, there is a target of 2 million additional FTTH connections for the current year. According to their own statements, around 600,000 connections were added in 2020, then 1.2 million in 2021 and a further increase of 2 million is aimed for in 2022. To do this, however, Telekom has to pick up the pace significantly, because as of November 10, there were only 1.1 million new connections with FTTH this year, as Golem quotes from a conversation with company boss Tim Höttges. In a period of around 8 weeks, 900,000 FTTH connections would have to be added, significantly more than the previous expansion rate allows.

“By the end of 2022, Telekom will increase its fiber optic range to a total of 5.2 million connections,” says a press release today. In mid-November, Höttges still spoke of “4.5 million homes passed”, so today's new number represents an increase of 700,000 connections. However, Telekom would be missing 200,000 FTTH connections for its own goal. The editors have asked Telekom for a statement on the contradictory information.

Up to 3 million FTTH connections from 2024

While there was talk of a further increase in the pace of expansion of 2.5 million households per year from 2024, “up to” 3 million households per year are now to receive FTTH from the year after next, according to the Network Day 2022. In 2024, the mark of a total of 10 million households with an FTTH connection. In March 2021, a network update announced that all households in Germany should have an FTTH connection by 2030. Today, however, there was only talk of 25 to 30 million FTTH connections by 2030, with currently almost 41 million households in Germany.

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Nationwide targets by 2030 (Image: Deutsche Telekom)

Telekom is hiring fiber optic technicians

< p class="p text-width">To get closer to these goals, more fiber optic technicians are needed. In Telekom's so-called Fiber Factory, their number is to be increased by 50 percent, and a total of 1,000 new fiber optic experts are to be hired, most of them for the assembly area. As part of the Netze Day, an employee demonstrated how fiber optic splicing works and explained that an employee manages around three to four households per day, since there would be around two hours of installation time per household.

Half of the FTTH connections from cooperations

In its expansion strategy, Telekom is not acting alone, as several joint ventures that have been implemented show, for example with the IFM Global Infrastructure Fund around a year ago. The group intends to continue this strategy and increase the proportion of households that can be marketed through cooperations from the current 1 million to around 5 million by 2024. Ergo, around half of the planned FTTH connections would be realized through cooperation. In addition to joint ventures such as with IFM or EWE, Telekom also relies on access to fiber optic networks from municipal utilities and regional providers as well as on bitstream access wholebuy, for example at Wilhelm.tel. Specifically, 134,000 FTTH connections in Bochum with fiber optics in the Ruhr, the first connection of customers at Stadtwerke Münster and 120 municipalities with 260,000 households in the Stuttgart region are mentioned.

Cooperation for fiber optic expansion (image: Deutsche Telekom ).For its own expansion, the network operator is again demanding simpler and faster approvals, also for alternative laying methods such as micro-trenching or laying cables above ground, as is often the case in Barcelona, ​​for example. “We need support with access, permits and alternative methods,” it said on Netze Day. If, on the other hand, classic civil engineering is used, one still sees oneself in a good position, because the group has planned with foresight and can thus partially cushion the current price increases in practically all areas. Civil engineering capacities have been secured in advance for 60 to 80 percent of the expansion by 2023/2024. Nevertheless, the company notes that the price increase in civil engineering of 5 to 20 percent in recent months has been a challenge. Nevertheless, you have a better starting position than most of your competitors. A lot of money could be saved using alternative laying methods, and Telekom also threw up tax breaks for fiber optic expansion.

There is also movement in Telekom's mobile network. Today, the group announced a total of over 80,000 antennas for 5G, including 8,000 antennas for the new spectrum at 3.6 GHz, which makes the biggest difference. In the long term, however, gigabit speed should not only be achieved at 3.6 GHz, because an aggregation of low, mid and high bands is planned, so that the disadvantages of the DSS connections in terms of speed could be gradually reduced. For 5G, Telekom states current coverage of 94 percent of the population and 90 percent of the area. The aim is to reach 99 percent of the population by 2025.

Current coverage with 5G (Image: Deutsche Telekom)

Mobile communications along the rails remains a challenge

Although Telekom has recently won several network tests, these have also shown that the connection to the rails remains a problem. The network operator is aware of this, but nevertheless reports successes such as over 500 new locations or expansions along the rails and more than 100 tunnels supplied for the first time or with additional capacity. Bavaria's largest radio hole with a length of more than 4 km could also be plugged. Tests are also being carried out with Deutsche Bahn for mobile phone transparent panes, which are intended to ensure better reception. Modern trains act like Faraday cages and need these new discs or in-train repeaters for a good connection. There are challenges with the high speeds and frequent cell changes as well as the currently unusable LTE 900 frequency along the rails. According to a recent decision by the Federal Network Agency, the frequencies of the GSM-R network will not be allocated to the LTE network until December 2024, reports Der Spiegel.

Improvements along the rails (Image: Deutsche Telekom)

5G standalone only for enterprise customers

New 5G features such as 5G SA (standalone), which only relies on a 5G core network and no longer requires the end device to dial into the LTE network, or the network slicing that is possible with it, which divides a physical network into several logical networks for guaranteed availability, speed or latency, are still only topics for enterprise customers such as RTL with TV transmission via 5G or most recently BMW with automated valet parking, i.e. fully automated parking according to SAE Level 4 in a multi-storey car park with intelligent infrastructure . Telekom is also not yet tackling features such as Voice over New Radio (VoNR), i.e. telephoning via 5G, and instead wants to implement VoLTE nationwide.

The networks should become more sustainable

Walter Goldenits, currently still head of technology at Telekom, who will be replaced by CTO Abdu Mudesir at the beginning of 2023, who will then hold both roles, explained again in Bonn that there must first be a meaningful application for private customers before 5G SA can also be offered there becomes. The competitor Vodafone already offers 5G SA and mainly claims advantages in terms of energy efficiency. According to Vodafone, a device connected only to 5G consumes 20 percent less. Base stations would also have a 20 percent greater range. Since Telekom in Bonn also advertised more sustainable networks, whose consumption should be at least 10 percent lower in 2024 than in 2020, reduced consumption could be achieved with the same range of the base station. For Telekom, however, this does not yet result in a meaningful application. More AI in the network and the shutdown of old systems such as the PSTN platform and 3G, the replacement of more and more copper lines with fiber optics or the dismantling of public telephone booths are further measures for greater energy efficiency.

Sustainability goals (image: Deutsche Telekom)

6G should enable holographic phone calls

The topic of 6G, which is still a future issue, was also touched upon at Netzetag. The company has taken over the management of two 6G research projects with partners from industry, universities and science. This should prepare the ground for the sixth generation of communications technology, said Claudia Nemat, Board Member for Technology and Innovation at Telekom. Possible applications in the 6G network include holographic calls with 3D images of the participants. Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone are working on this in a joint project with the startup Matsuko.