November 17, 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 Latvia is now nearly 61% towards achieving that aim. This means that 61% of Latvian homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.
Latvia achieves above-average availability of superfast broadband by having the highest coverage of FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) of all the study countries. In fact the study found that FTTP, providing high-speed fibre-optical services to many of Latvia’s large apartment blocks, is the only superfast technology in use in the country.
The report which identifies Latvia’s achievements 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 90% of the homes in Latvia can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe. Almost 61% can already get superfast broadband, also known as NGA, for Next Generation Access, all through FTTP. 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 Latvia is concerned, the map shows that superfast coverage is concentrated in the capital, Riga, and the surrounding region. The western region, Kurzeme has 58% but the more rural eastern regions are all under 35%.
The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart. Latvia is unusual in relying entirely on FTTP for superfast broadband services and its 61% coverage is well ahead of the European average of 12%. On the other hand, although it has quite extensive cable TV networks it misses out on the benefits of Docsis 3 because they have apparently not been upgraded to provide the superfast cable broadband standard. Similarly, Latvia has no VDSL activity. Docsis 3 and VDSL provide 37% and 21% superfast broadband coverage on average across the EU as a whole.
“If Latvia invested selectively in Docsis 3 and VDSL it could probably increase its superfast coverage quite a lot at low cost,” says Tim Johnson, who led the study project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst. “It should also help to provide more superfast in rural areas, which is a problem almost everywhere 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.