Europe half-way to “Digital Heaven”

November 2, 2012   |   Tim Johnson

One of the European Union’s most ambitious targets is to make sure that all its citizens can get access to superfast broadband at home, if they choose, by 2020.  A new study by Point Topic shows Europe is now half-way towards achieving that aim.

The study has been produced for DG Connect, the department of the European Commission which is responsible for its “Digital Agenda” strategy.  The purpose of the Digital Agenda is to harness the internet and other digital technologies to drive sustainable economic growth.  Neelie Kroes, the Commission vice-president responsible, wants to see €7 billion earmarked for EU investments in broadband to help reach Digital Agenda targets, which in turn is meant to draw in private funds of many times that amount.

“This study gives us the best view so far of where action is needed on broadband coverage,” says Neelie Kroes.  “It will help to guide decisions on where EU and private money can be invested to provide the best long-term return for taxpayers and investors such as pension funds.”

Called Broadband Coverage in Europe in 2011, the new study shows that almost 96% of the homes in Europe can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe.  Over 50% can already get superfast broadband (also known as NGA, for Next Generation Access) providing 30 Mbps (Megabits per second) or more.

Superfast broadband coverage map in the study countries (end 2011)

Figure 1 Next generation access broadband coverage map in the study countries (end-2011)

Basic broadband is fairly widespread now, only three EU countries have less than 90% coverage.  But there are huge variations in superfast availability.  Three EU countries the Netherlands, Belgium and Malta) have over 98%; three others (Italy, Greece and Cyprus) have under 11%.  All the rest are in the range between 35% and 75%.  There are also big variations within countries.  For example, rural areas across Europe are estimated to have only 12% superfast broadband coverage as a whole.

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market.  Contrary to a widespread impression FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) is taking a relatively small share.  “Despite all the publicity, FTTP doesn’t offer the main route to digital heaven, at least not for the time being,” says Tim Johnson, who led the project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst.  “So far FTTP covers only 12% of homes.  The biggest providers of superfast service are the cable TV networks which can now reach 37% of EU homes with the up-to-date Docsis 3 standard.”

VDSL (Very-fast DSL), the technology for providing superfast speeds over the telephone network, falls between the other two, reaching 21% of EU homes by the end of 2011.  The three technologies together add up to only 50% total superfast coverage because they overlap a lot, competing to serve the richer and more densely populated areas and leaving others underserved.

Broadband coverage in Europe

Figure 2 Broadband coverage in Europe

Key to technologies

DSL – provides broadband speeds up to 24 megabits per second over the telephone network
VDSL (Very-fast DSL) – provides superfast speeds (30Mbps or more) over the telephone network
FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) – delivers the fastest possible broadband over optical fibre to apartment blocks or all the way to individual homes
WiMAX – the up-to-date standard for broadband over wireless links to fixed aerials
Standard cable – provides broadband over cable TV networks using older standards
Docsis 3 cable – the up-to-date standard for providing superfast broadband over cable TV networks
HSPA – the up-to-date standard for mobile broadband over 3G networks
LTE – the new standard for fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband
Satellite – two-way broadband delivered over the newest satellites using KA-Band technology
Standard combination – shows the combined coverage of all the fixed-line broadband technologies
NGA combination – shows the combined c overage of all the fixed-line superfast broadband technologies (VDSL, FTTP and Docsis 3)

About Point Topic

Point Topic is the primary websource for DSL, FTTx, cable and other broadband supplier and user statistics, databases, information and reports. Its data is in use worldwide amongst governments, commercial organisations and as general reference. A range of online services provides the most up-to-date, accurate and cost effective worldwide and UK specific broadband data sets available.

For media information please contact Dana Corson at dana.corson@proactive-pr.com or Emma Johnson at emma.johnson@proactive-pr.com or on: +44 1636 812152.

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