ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s biggest telecom operator OTE Group flicked the switch on the first “fiber-to-the-home” ultra-fast internet connection on Tuesday which will help the country make a leap to faster speeds within the next four years.
Greece, which is slowly recovering from a protracted recession and exits its third international bailout in August, needs new generation infrastructure to digitalize its economy and help boost growth and tackle unemployment, the highest in euro zone.
Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which provides a direct fiber optic connection to the user’s premises, is now below 1 percent in the country.
OTE’s new technology aims to bring that rate up to about 25 percent by 2022, upgrading internet speeds to up to 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second), which is about five times faster than up to 200 Mbps (Megabits per second) currently on offer.
OTE has spent some 2 billion euros ($2.34 billion) in the last six years developing a 43,000-km fiber optic network, the country’s largest, offering 3 million households and businesses access to internet speeds of up to 200 Mbps.
“Today, we are bringing optic fiber to the home’s socket. Today, we are making a gigabit society in our country come true,” OTE Chief Executive Michael Tsamaz told an event, marking the first FTTH connection.
OTE, which is 45 percent owned and managed by Deutsche Telekom, aims to expand the FTTH network to about 150,000 households out of about 4 million by the end of 2019, mainly in big cities, and gradually reach 1 million households by 2022.
The government is offering a 360 euro subsidy to low-income households to connect to superfast broadband services for two years as part of a 700 million euro scheme to boost internet connectivity across the country under an EU policy to turn Europe into a “gigabit society” by 2025.
“Through this action and with our decision to siphon in state money immediately to support this kind of investments, we will be able to overshoot our targets for the gigabit society before 2025,” Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas said.
Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, editing by David Evans