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Gopalan announces new fibre strategy to speed deployment in Germany

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Telekom Deutschland's new boss wants to shake things up to meet its goal of fibre to every German household by 2030, but it looks like old habits could die hard.

According to a presentation reported in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Srini Gopalan, Board Member for Germany, and new Managing Director, Telekom Deutschland, said, “We used to do this alone. Now it is clear to us that we need good partners."

At the moment, according to the latest figures from the FTTH Council Europe released last week, Germany has a fibre penetration rate of under 10%, and is close to the bottom of European rankings.

Top three

Gopalan was quoted saying, "For me, fiber is my number one, two and three priority," adding, "Fibre is not just a new network. Glass fibre is our future."

Like incumbents in other major European economies, such as the UK, for a long time TD preferred to prolong the life of copper-based access technologies, before seeing the light and so is playing catch up.

This new discovery of the potential of partnership is not a revelation to Germany's alternative fibre network providers: the Dax group has been trying to work more on partners for a long time and a pilot project between TD and EWE has dragged on in northern Germany and progress has been slow.

Gopalan thinks the reason for typically slow progress working in partnership to deploy fibre is TD was not easy to work with and accepts humiility is needed. According to the article, local and regional alternative providers repeatedly accuse TD of being too aggressive and confrontational if its views don't prevail, for example threatening to overbuild alternative networks with its own.

Speak quietly, carry a big stick?

Yet even as Gopalan's announcement was made, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of the Deutsche Telekom Group, joined in saying. “Our network will always be open to third parties," and We are open to everyone," but "We hope that we will achieve reciprocity – if not, then we will overbuild".

Höttges also took the opportunity to criticise its competitors. He said that while TD invested a total of around €16.7 billion in Germany between 2017 and 2019, Vodafone's total investments during this period were only €5.7 billion and Telefónica (O2 brand) only €2.9 billionin fibre.

He seems to have forgotten that Vodafone spent  €18.4 billion acquiring the Liberty Global cable networks in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania in 2019, and which in Germany at least is steadily being upgraded to gigabit speeds. 

Indeed, Deutsche Telekom tried to block the acquisition through the courts and via complaints of it being anti-competitive to the European Commission.