European broadband growth – steady spread of Next Generation supply

December 16, 2013   |   Oliver Johnson

The number of European homes able to get superfast Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband increased sharply in 2012.  The growth was driven mainly by a combination of technologies.  These are among the key findings of a new report, produced by Point Topic for the European Commission, and now published as ‘Broadband Coverage in Europe 2012’.

“For the past years, I have stressed on every occasion that increasing Europe’s competitiveness and exiting the crisis is essentially about creating favourable conditions for the digital market to flourish; high-speed internet is probably the most important part of this target. It is with great satisfaction that I receive this report, which includes a very comprehensive assessment on where we are on high-speed broadband availability in the EU ” says Vice President Kroes, the Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda.

NGA coverage by fixed-line networks increased by 5.6% in the year, to 54% overall.  This was mainly driven by VDSL (Very High-speed DSL), otherwise known as FTTC, for fibre-to-the-(street) cabinet.

VDSL offers the best value for money for telcos in most European countries.  It means they can provide the consumer with higher speeds without having to replace thousands of miles of copper cable.  This makes it attractive to incumbent operators and policy makers as they struggle to finance broadband rollout in post crash Europe.

“Significant challenges remain for the EU.  The technology agnostic approach is working well in many markets but some areas will have to take action soon to meet the objectives of the Digital Agenda,” says Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic.

LTE, not classified as an NGA technology, leapt from 8% to 27% coverage as mobile operators across the EU started to roll out the fourth-generation technology in earnest.  Mobile has an important role to play in providing quality access to online services and the widespread rollout of LTE across Europe indicates a healthy trend.

The advent of Docsis 3 over the cable networks and the expected arrival of vectoring technology to double the speed of VDSL mean that most homes in Europe should have superfast services offering speeds of at least 80 megabits available within the next five years.

Hybrid networks using either copper or cable in combination with fibre are the future for Europe’s broadband for at least the next five or even ten years with the introduction of more ‘life extending’ technologies.  They are projected to be able to meet the majority of consumer requirements well into the next decade

Point Topic researched the coverage of each of the nine main broadband technologies at the provincial level for a total of 31 European countries, including all the EU member states.  This data was used to map broadband availability, as a percentage of homes, for over 1300 provinces.

“Point Topic was able to markedly improve the granularity of its analysis and data collation for this project.  Our development of a kilometre square grid covering the whole of Europe for mapping broadband has meant a step change in accuracy,” says Johnson.

The ‘Broadband Coverage in Europe 2012’ is available on the EC website at: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/study-broadband-coverage-2012

A visualisation of the results for standard and superfast broadband coverage has been published by Point Topic: http://point-topic.com/free-analysis/visualising-broadband-coverage-europe-2012/

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