Fibre to the home (FTTH) is making slow but steady progress in western Europe, with nearly one million users connected.
A report from research company Informa Telecoms and Media has found that despite breaking the one million barrier across western Europe, FTTH connections only account for just over 1 percent of all broadband connections in the continent.
Sweden is the most advanced user of FTTH — which uses optical fibre for last-mile connections to users' premises and promises super high-speed broadband — with 27 percent of fat pipe users getting their internet access from FTTH.
Unlike traditional forms of broadband access, FTTH suppliers in Sweden are not telcos, tending rather to be utilities companies or local authorities, as they often already have sewers and ducts through which fibre can be laid at low cost. To date DSL players have been lukewarm on FTTH, citing its high cost.
A separate report by broadband analysts Point Topic found the market for FTTx services worldwide grew almost twice as fast as DSL and topped more than 27 million subscribers during 2006.
Fibre offers data speeds many times greater than those available using copper, but no large-scale FTTH initiative has yet appeared in the UK, as the industry and Ofcom still appear to prefer the full exploitation of the country's copper DSL infrastructure.
There are positive signs, however, that local government initiatives in Yorkshire may be considering fibre as a key component for the rollout of broadband services. Meanwhile, in a new development at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent, each home will enjoy multiple fibre connections — the first such deployment in the UK.
ZDNet UK's David Meyer contributed to this report.