Portugal is a leader in superfast broadband coverage

November 10, 2012   |   Tim Johnson

Point Topic study shows Europe is half-way to “digital heaven”

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 Portugal is nearly 75% towards achieving that aim.  This means that 75% of Portuguese homes can already subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.

Despite being a relatively low-income country, Portugal is well ahead of the European averages for the coverage of basic and superfast broadband services.  With a strong combination of the cable TV and FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) networks it has fifth highest superfast coverage found by the study research, exceeded only by countries which are much richer, or have much higher population densities, or both.

The report which details Portugal’s success 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, Point Topic’s new study shows that 100% of the homes in Portugal can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe.  Nearly 75% 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 Portugal is concerned, the map shows that Lisbon and Oporto and their surrounding areas, and the southern province of the Algarve, all enjoy 100% superfast broadband coverage.  Some coastal provinces, and also the overseas regions of Madeira and the Azores have between 65% and 95% NGA coverage.  Most of the rest of the country is between 35% and 65%, but a group of provinces in the north and east have less than 35%, including two with none at all.

Superfast broadband coverage map in Portugal (end 2011)

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

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart.  In Portugal, Docsis 3 broadband over the cable TV network is the most important superfast technology with 74% coverage.  This leads the situation for the EU as a whole where Docsis 3 totals 37% coverage.  FTTP is also well ahead with 41% coverage against the average of 12%.  On the other hand, VDSL, which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, is not in use in Portugal although it covers 21% of homes for the EU 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 75% in Portugal.”  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 Portugal - comparison with the European Union

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

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.

For media information please contact Dana Corson at dana.corson@proactive-pr.com or Emma Johnson at emma.johnson@proactive-pr.com or on: +44 1636 812152.