Germany leads Europe in superfast broadband

November 23, 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 Germany is now nearly 61% towards achieving that aim. This means that 61% of German homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.

Thanks to extensive coverage by superfast broadband over both the cable and telephone networks, using Docsis 3 and VDSL technology respectively, Germany has the biggest superfast broadband footprint in Europe.   Over 24 million homes in Germany have access to superfast broadband, 23% of the EU total.  Germany also has high-quality coverage of basic broadband and a pioneering rollout of LTE, the fourth-generation mobile standard to favour rural areas.

The study with these results 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 95% of the homes in Germany can now get broadband providing at least 1Mbps (megabits per second) of data if they want to subscribe.   This is a higher standard than applied generally by DG Connect, which considers services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second) as basic broadband. Almost 61% of German homes 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 Germany is concerned, the map shows that many of the most prosperous cities in western Germany already have 100% superfast and several other cities, including Berlin and Hamburg are close to that.  Most sizeable German cities have at least 65% superfast coverage while most of the rest of the former West Germany has at least 35%.  On the other hand, large parts of the former East Germany, and also of Rheinland Pfalz in the west, have less than 35% coverage.  But there are superfast services available in every one of Germany’s 429 counties (kreise) and none has less than 8% coverage.

Superfast broadband coverage map in Germany (end 2011)

Figure 1 Next generation access broadband coverage map – Germany (end-2011)

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart.  Germany is one of the few countries where VDSL, which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, is the most widely available superfast technology, covering 42% of Germany against an average of 21% for Europe as a whole.  Docsis 3, broadband over the cable TV network, comes second with 38% coverage, very similar to the 37% average for Europe.  FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises, meaning to apartment blocks or individual homes) is a distant third in Germany with only 2.6% coverage, compared with a 12% average for Europe.

“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 61% in Germany.”  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.

Broadband coverage in Germany - comparison with the European Union

Figure 2 Comparison of broadband coverage in Germany with the European Union

Key to technologies DSL – provides broadband speeds up to 24 megabits per second over the telephone networkVDSL (Very-fast DSL) – provides superfast speeds (30Mbps or more) over the telephone networkFTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) – delivers the fastest possible broadband over optical fibre to apartment blocks or all the way to individual homesWiMAX – the up-to-date standard for broadband over wireless links to fixed aerialsStandard cable – provides broadband over cable TV networks using older standardsDocsis 3 cable – the up-to-date standard for providing superfast broadband over cable TV networksHSPA – the up-to-date standard for mobile broadband over 3G networksLTE – the new standard for fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadbandSatellite – two-way broadband delivered over the newest satellites using KA-Band technologyStandard combination – shows the combined coverage of all the fixed-line broadband technologiesNGA 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 [email protected] or Emma Johnson at [email protected] or on: +44 1636 812152.