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Europe’s Dark Fiber Play

Underneath Europe’s picturesque and classical streets, lies thousands of kilometres of fibre cables that connect the more than 500 million people living on the continent and millions of businesses trading in and out of Europe’s borders. However, not only are there active fibre routes lurking beneath our feet; there’s thousands of kilometres of dark fibre also sitting below the surface. JSA Europe media consultant João Marques Lima explains.

A dark fibre network is basically unused fibre optic cables with no service or traffic running on it. This is a clever – and easy – concept to adopt, one that was first adopted in the US in 1990s.

Indian-American physicist Narinder Singh Kapany was indeed the one who thought of the term fibre optics and is deemed the ‘Father of Fiber Optics’.

One of the immense advantages of dark fibre is it enables businesses to gain control of their IT estate and importantly, allows them to manage capacity and to scale as needed as a fibre is limitless, according to UK-based dark fibre provider Neos Networks.

Dark fibre helps telecom organisations enlarge their existing networks by reaching additional users and transferring more data to offer superior speed and capacity.

Plus, it ultimately also saves millions of dollars in deployment costs as when trenches are dug up or installations take place, by installing an extra route line or two with the original deployment works, there is no need to dig the ground again causing all the disruption that comes with it.

 

Dark Fiber Global Play

According to Brandessence Market Research And Consulting, the global dark fibre market in terms of revenue was worth of US$9,779.6 Million in 2020 and is expected to reach $20,011 Million in 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.49%.

Increasing inclination towards enhanced communication and mobile data, network management and growing penetration of internet services and rising demand for the 5G network are some of the major factors driving the growth of the dark fibre market.

As per the Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson Company, there would be 190 million 5G subscriptions by the end of 2020 and 2.8 billion by 2025.

Despite the unpredicted events of 2020, 5G deployment and adoption kept rising. Also, the 5G ecosystem is broadening due to the pace of 5G introduction has accelerated for the duration of 2020 with numerous network developments and devices. 5G adoption is increasing in momentum in both the network and device domains, with more than 150 5G devices launched commercially in 2020.

According to Ookla, LLC, the number of 5G operators and 5G deployments globally achieved about 18,731 and 157, correspondingly, in 2020.

 

Europe Dark Fiber Miles

Home to four of the seven G7 countries, Europe is a leading financial and technology power on the global stage. 

Yet, according to TechNavio, the European dark fibre market was in 2019 the smallest when looked at a reginal share standpoint. 

At 7.09%, it was behind MEA (9.3%), South America (20.15%), North America (24.12%), and APAC (39.34%). This is not expected to significantly change up to 2024. 

However, France and Germany are the two world’s leading nations when it comes to dark fibre, representing 10.50-11.25% and 5.20-5.56% of the total market respectively. The two European nations are followed by India (4.21-4.79%) and China (3.10-3.50%).

This is due to the fact that some of the world’s leading fibre brands are from these two countries and encompass footprints that cover not only Europe, but Africa, Latin America, North America, the Middle East and other regions.

Brandessence Market Research And Consulting says that Europe is expected to witness a significant growth in the global dark fibre market due to intensifying expansion of cloud service, smart cities, remote applications, e-commerce, and banking sectors in this region. 

Increasing demand for dark fibre infrastructure is the prominent factor fuelling the growth of the dark fibre market. Dark fibre is an essential investment theme in Europe that is especially needed for data centres, mobile infrastructure, and edge computing. 

For instance, the FLAP – Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris – data centre market alone is growing at pace, having topped 2,200 megawatts of power capacity this year from 1.8GW in 2020. 

 

Dark Fibre Logos

There are hundreds of dark fibre logos in Europe, some with regional and national-only footprints, others with cross-borders ramifications.

Some of the largest operators include euNetworks, Lumen Technologies, Zayo Group, Eurofiber, GasLINE, Lyntia, GTT Communications, Windstream Holdings, Orange Wholesale and Colt Technology Services Group, 

European companies which are prominent in the continent’s collective infrastructure build-out consist of Fresh wave Group, LuxConnect, Ontix, and Wireless Infrastructure Group. 

The investor community has also taken notice of the growing need for digital infrastructure including dark fibre.

Groups including Stonepeak Infrastructure (which has a stake in euNetworks), Antin Infrastructure (with an equity in Eurofiber and Lyntia), I Squared Capital (which bought GTT’s Infrastructure Division), and DigitalBridge (which acquired Zayo alongside several other investments in fibre, data centres and edge computing).

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