November 30, 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 broadband specialists Point Topic shows Bulgaria is now over 71% towards achieving that aim.
In fact Bulgaria has dramatically overcome the limitations of the telecoms networks it inherited from the communist era by leaping ahead to superfast broadband, able to deliver 30Mbps (megabits per second) or more to homes and businesses. As a result it is now sixth among all EU countries in superfast broadband coverage.
The study showing how well Bulgaria is doing 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 92% of the homes in Bulgaria can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe. Over 71% can already get superfast broadband, also known as NGA, for Next Generation Access. Looking at the 29 study countries as a whole (all 27 members of the EU, plus Norway and Iceland), 96% can already get basic broadband and over 50% – half way to the “digital heaven” target for 2020 – can get superfast.
Basic broadband is fairly widespread now, only three EU countries have less than 90% coverage. But there are huge variations in superfast availability both internationally and within countries. As far as Bulgaria is concerned, the map shows that a large part of the country has over 65% superfast coverage, including all the big cities and the seaside resorts and going as high as 90% in Sofia, the capital. At the other extreme the more rural areas have under 35% availability and the province of Vidin in the north-west shows no superfast presence at all.
The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart. In Bulgaria, Docsis 3 broadband over the cable TV network is the most important superfast technology with 56% coverage. This reflects the situation across Europe as a whole where Docsis 3 also leads on 37%. FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises, meaning to apartment blocks or individual homes) is also well developed in Bulgaria with 44% coverage, well ahead of the European average of 12%. On the other hand VDSL, which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, shows no presence in Bulgaria although it averages 21% for Europe as a whole.
“When we add all these technologies together we have to take account of the overlap,” explains Tim Johnson, who led the project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst. “This is how we get to superfast coverage of 71% in Bulgaria.” The problem is that the superfast operators compete to serve the richer and more densely populated areas in each country, leaving others underserved. “Hopefully this project will give policy-makers some of the information they need to start addressing that problem,” says Johnson.
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. See www.point-topic.com for more details.