This week the European Commission published its report on Broadband Coverage in Europe in 2012, measuring progress with respect to the broadband coverage targets set out in the Digital Agenda. The new study, completed by Point Topic, shows that whilst nearly all households in Europe could access basic broadband services at the end of 2012, significant challenges still remain in delivering high speed broadband to all.
The purpose of the Broadband Coverage in Europe in 2012 (BCE 2012) project was to support the objectives of the European Union’s Digital Agenda. Two of the Agenda’s key objectives are to provide:
BCE 2012 was designed to measure progress towards this objective and identify where action would be needed to achieve it.
The project was commissioned by the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, DG Connect. Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, has pointed out that “accurate data is critical for delivering policy and regulation that enables broadband internet for all Europeans.”
With this need in view, DG Connect requested a study to be based on a survey of broadband network operators and National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs). The study was to cover all twenty-seven countries of the EU and also Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Switzerland. The main objective was to research the coverage of each of the nine main broadband technologies – meaning what proportion of households have access to services using each technology. The nine main broadband technologies were: DSL, VDSL, FTTP, standard cable, Docsis 3 cable, WiMAX, HSPA, LTE and satellite.
The study was also to estimate the overall coverage of “combinations” of technologies. Since the coverage areas of the different technologies would often overlap, this meant looking at the number of households passed by each different technology capable of delivering a chosen level of performance and estimating the total number of households being served by at least one of the technologies.
The three technology combinations chosen were:
Including the main technologies capable of providing basic broadband of at least 144kbps download speed for end-users, but excluding satellite broadband
Combining DSL (including VDSL), FTTP, WiMAX, standard cable (including Docsis 3 cable), HSPA and LTE, but excluding satellite broadband.
Including the main fixed-line technologies capable of providing basic broadband of at least 144kbps download speed for end-users.
Combining DSL (including VDSL), FTTP, WiMax and standard cable (including Docsis 3 cable).
Including the technologies which are needed to meet the Digital Agenda’s 30Mbps objective
Combining VDSL, FTTP and Docsis 3 cable.
To achieve an accurate estimate of technologies and combinations, Point Topic successfully proposed a study which would map technology coverage at the level of sub-national regions. The regions used follow the EU-sponsored scheme for “Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics” (NUTS) and specifically the NUTS 3 level, which mostly corresponds to familiar administrative divisions such as counties, départements, or provinces. Working at regional level allows a far more reliable assessment of total coverage and the split between the more urban and the rural sectors in each country. The study also introduced a more sophisticated approach to defining rural households, which assessed the population density in every square kilometre across Europe.
NRAs and operator respondents were asked to provide data at country level and at NUTS 3 level where possible. Thanks not least to the very valuable support of DG Connect, a high proportion did.
Point Topic would like to take this opportunity to thank DG Connect and all survey respondents for their support. Particular thanks are due to IDATE who, with the approval of the FTTH Council, also helped by providing their current country-level data on FTTP coverage.
At the end of 2012 nearly all households in the European Union could access broadband services through at least one of the nine listed broadband technologies.
The few sets of households not served by broadband services were located in Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, where satellite broadband services were not available.
More than 99% of households could access standard broadband services through fixed or mobile services (HSPA or LTE), with over 95% able to access at least one fixed service.
At the end of 2012 the European Union was more than half-way towards its target of 30Mbps access for all by 2020. 54% of EU households, or 113 million, were already covered by NGA services at the end of 2012.
Point Topic’s new approach to defining rurality identified 31 million rural households in the EU 27, or 15% of all households. Bringing NGA broadband services to these most rural areas remains the biggest challenge for broadband in the European Union.
At the end of 2012, whilst rural households were relatively well served by standard broadband services only 12%, or 3.8 million,could receive NGA services. Improvements have been made, with coverage increasing by nearly 4% in 2012, but there is still a long way to go.
Figure 1: Total broadband coverage by technology combination
Satellite was the most widespread broadband service in the European Union at the end of 2012. In terms of fixed broadband technologies, the research showed that DSL remained by far the most important fixed broadband technology in Europe. Coverage had grown slightly in 2012 and DSL covered 93% of EU households. Standard cable covered just over 42% of households, and WiMAX had 17% coverage. Out of the standard fixed broadband technologies and excluding the NGA technologies, WiMAX coverage grew most in 2012, reaching nearly 5.5 million new households.
Figure 2: Broadband coverage by technology in 2012 – source Point Topic
Looking at the NGA technologies, Docsis 3 (also included in the standard cable figures) was the most important with nearly 40% coverage. VDSL (included in the DSL figures) was next at 25%, and FTTP was available to 12% of households. VDSL coverage grew by more than 5 percentage points in 2012, making it the fastest growing fixed broadband technology in that period.
As for mobile broadband, HSPA covered nearly all of the EU with 96% of households passed. LTE coverage grew rapidly in 2012, and the service was available to 27% of European Union households at end-2012.
Even more than for the market as a whole, DSL was the main provider of fixed broadband access in rural areas. WiMAX was next, contributing less than 16% gross coverage to rural areas.
Docsis 3 cable was the biggest contributor to rural NGA coverage. With nearly 6% coverage it provided nearly two thirds of all NGA coverage in rural areas. VDSL contributed a further 5% to rural NGA coverage, and thanks to the existing twisted copper-pair telephone networks in most areas it has the potential to do much more.
At the end of 2012, 95.5% of households in the European Union could access at least one fixed broadband service.
Ten member states were really close (>99%) to having full coverage at the end of 2012. Standard fixed broadband coverage is generally lower in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Latvia. DSL is by far the biggest contributor to the standard fixed broadband contribution, and all but one of the countries that fell below the EU average had lower than average DSL coverage.
Rural standard fixed coverage was usually much lower than total coverage. The European Union average fell to 83.2% coverage for rural households. Coverage also fell off much more sharply in the less well served countries.
Figure 3: Standard fixed broadband coverage, total and rural – source Point Topic
The European Union as a whole was over half-way towards the 30Mbps goal at the end of 2012. Whilst it was generally the most urbanized countries with the highest NGA coverage, countries with above average coverage were found in all quarters of Europe, reflecting the effects of different development policies, infrastructure needs and technology choices.
Only 12.4% of rural households in the European Union had access to NGA services at the end of 2012. Eight countries were thought not to have any rural NGA coverage. Rural NGA coverage was highest in Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands.
To establish the overlap between broadband technologies, Point Topic collected coverage data for every NUTS 3 area across Europe. In general, standard fixed broadband coverage was fairly consistent within a country. There can be significantly more variation in the coverage of NGA technologies, as shown in the map below.
In terms of NGA coverage, it was in the European Union’s largest countries that we saw the biggest deficiencies. 80% of the NUTS 3 areas in Italy had no NGA coverage, and only 14% of all Italian households could access NGA services. In France, we estimated that there was no NGA coverage in thirty-eight of the one-hundred NUTS 3 areas at the end of 2012.
Eastern and Northern Europe continued to perform well in delivering NGA services to their residents. Cyprus, Latvia and Greece reported the greatest improvements in NGA coverage in 2012.
At the end of 2012, nearly all EU households had access to a standard broadband service. The European Commission can be pleased to be so close to meeting its target of delivering standard broadband to all by the end of 2013.
The challenge remains in delivering NGA broadband to all households by 2020, and particularly to rural households. Whilst results show an overall coverage increase of almost four percentage points in 2012, there is still a long way to go, particularly in some of the European Union’s largest countries.
More information on broadband availability and coverage in Europe can be found in Point Topic’s Broadband Competition Map of Europe. Please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail email@example.com for more details.