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Telefonica Spain to speed up ADSL shutdown and accelerate fibre transition

Telefonica Spain to speed up ADSL shutdown and accelerate fibre transition

Telefonica’s planned full switchover from copper to fibre has been moved forward from 2025 to April 2024


Telefonica, one of the world’s largest telephone operators and mobile network providers, is planning to accelerate the shutdown of its ADSL exchanges in Spain and migration from copper to fibre. Achieving this target will require significant effort, however: in August 2021, 1,000 copper exchanges had been migrated to fibre. Over 6,300 copper exchanges remain unchanged. Telefónica’s aim is to achieve 100% fibre coverage in Spain by 2025.

Telefonica FTTH deployment is one of the world’s largest, with 26.9Mn of premises passed. In Spain, Telefonica has approximately 73% FTTH coverage and is the rural deployment leader. 5G coverage exceeds 80% of the population and 4G coverage exceeds 98%.

The operator has divested part of its ADSL network in Spain to Australian infrastructure fund Macquarie for some €200 m. Macquarie aims to transition Telefónica’s copper network to fibre and lease this to third-party operators on a wholesale basis. Spain’s telecoms regulator, CNMC (Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, National Commission for Markets and Competition) has expressed concerns that wholesale ADSL users might suddenly have no service. Telefónica has commented that CNMC’s preference for a slower shutdown may contribute to delaying migration to fibre services.

The company has quoted a hike in energy prices as a key driver for this acceleration. Some 85 % of Telefonica’s landline customers currently have access to fibre - that means 1.12 million residential users and 435,000 companies currently relying on copper still need to migrate. By closing its ADSL exchanges, Telefonica Spain would be able to monetise its real estate assets, many of which are located in city centres. Furthermore, the operator said it would be able to reach its environmental targets as an FTTH network consumes 85 % energy and requires less maintenance. Germany's leading broadband association, BREKO, has stated that copper networks consume up to 17 times more electricity than fibre optic networks. Germany's Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt) has stated that CO2 emissions per hour of video streaming for the fastest copper network is double that of FTTH. A study by the FTTH Council Europe shows that fibre optic networks emit 88% less greenhouse gases per gigabit than existing technologies.

EVOLUTION OF FIXED BROADBAND LINES BY TECHNOLOGY (x1000) Source: Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia

Telefónica’s ‘Digital Deal’ to better rebuild our societies and economies

Telefonica’s ‘Digital Deal’ is a collaborative approach between public and private, based on a governance model that can to combine social, environmental and economic aspects to achieve a long-term sustainable digital transition. It is based on five pillars:

  • Boosting digitalisation for a more sustainable society and economy
  • Addressing inequalities by investing in digital skills and adapting the welfare state
  • Building inclusive and sustainable connectivity
  • Ensuring fair competition by modernising the fiscal, regulatory and competition frameworks
  • Improving trust through ethical and responsible use of technology.