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Vodafone presses Germany for more help in broadband roll-out

It wants the state to invest in the "last mile" of networks by building required infrastructure

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Mr Ametsreiter says Vodafone is aiming, over the next 1 year, to increase to 11 million from 9 million the number of German households it provides with ultra-fast Gigabit connections.

Berlin

VODAFONE wants the German government to facilitate the roll-out of ultrafast fibre broadband connections to homes and businesses by investing in the "last mile" of networks, the company's Germany chief was quoted saying.

Germany has been slow to expand its fibre-optic network, causing its vital export industry to fret it will lose competitiveness because slow Internet speeds risk hobbling advances in computer-based manufacturing.

"The last mile to the home is extraordinarily challenging," Vodafone's Germany chief Hannes Ametsreiter told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

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"It is enormously expensive to rip the road on your own," he added. "It would be better to do it like the Spaniards and Portuguese, for example. The state lays empty pipes, just as it builds highways - that is, state investment in infrastructure.

"Each provider could then pull its cables through these pipes. That's more efficient. And that would fuel competition." Asked if the government had reacted to Vodafone's proposal, Mr Ametsreiter replied: "I am not aware of anything. But it can still come."

Vodafone is aiming, over the next 12 months, to increase to 11 million from nine million the number of German households it provides with ultra-fast Gigabit connections, he said.

If the company is allowed to take over Unitymedia, a unit of Liberty Global, this would rise to 25 million Gigabit connections by 2022, Mr Ametsreiter said.

Vodafone, the world's No 2 mobile operator, agreed last May to pay US$22 billion for Liberty Global's cable networks in German and Eastern European markets to challenge the dominance of former monopolies such as Deutsche Telekom.

The European Union has not raised any major concerns about the impact on Germany's cable market from Vodafone buying Liberty Global's assets, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said last month, improving the chances of the deal going ahead. REUTERS