The new deployments will see the provision of coverage for two million households across three separate regions of the country.
The Greek internet sector is among the least well-developed in Western Europe, and although uptake has begun to increase, this announcement will provide a major fillip.
Fibre-optic networks will provide higher-speed connections than the DSL infrastructure which currently dominates the Greek market. However, other European countries have experienced problems over network sharing, and such issues could yet emerge in Greece.
The Greek government has announced plans for a seven-year programme to build a national fibre-optic network, offering connections to around two million households across the country. The project will cost around 2.1 billion euro (US$3.04 billion), to be developed through a public-private partnership, and will be eligible for funding from the European Investment Bank. Specifically, three separate tenders will be held, allowing private companies to construct, maintain and operate dark fibre networks in three separate regions of the country. The international tenders will be held in the second half of 2009, with the contracts lasting 30 years. The new networks will offer speeds of at least 100 Mbps, and will facilitate the provision of broadband, HD TV, video telephony and other high-bandwidth services.
* Major Boost for Relatively Weak Greek Broadband Sector: The decision provides a major boost to the country's internet sector, which has for some time been amongst the weakest in the European Union (EU). The latest European Communities Trademark Association (ECTA) scorecard reports that there were around 1.125 million broadband subscribers in the country at the end of the first quarter of 2008, with Dow Jones reporting that broadband penetration in the country is currently around 12%. By comparsion, at the end of the first half of 2007 broadband penetration was 22% in France, 21% in Germany, 24% in the United Kingdom and as high as 33% in the Netherlands. However, growth in Greece has picked up in recent years, largely due to the low initial subscriber base, and boosted by infrastructure investment from incumbent OTE, and reduced subscription prices. The current broadband penetration level of 12% compares to just 0.1% as recently as 2004. Within this context of still-low penetration but strong growth, the government's announcement of a new two-billion-euro investment is a major fillip for the sector, and will further help the country close the broadband gap on its European neighbours.
* Greece Joining European Trend For Fibre-Optic Deployment: The roll-out of fibre-optic networks follows a growing trend in Europe for the higher-speed connections facilitated by this technology, a trend which could eventually bring an end to the dominance of DSL, which accounted for over 50% of the majority of Western European broadband markets at the end of the first half of 2007. DSL has until now been the dominant technology within Greece country, accounting for 99.5% of the broadband market at the end of the first quarter of 2008. Indeed, Communications Minister Costis Hadzidakis has emphasised that the choice of fibre-optic technology as the route for investment was based upon an explicit decision to adopt "future technologies that are already available … rather than adopt the intermediate technologies of today". However, elsewhere across Europe the zeal for fibre-optic roll-outs has led to a number of disputes between incumbents and alternative operators over network access and sharing of resources. With three separate tenders to be held for the award of deployment rights across three separate regions, it appears that the Greek government has a plan in place to avoid problems such as the multiple networks, although it remains to be seen how the critical issue of network sharing and access is to be addressed.