November 9, 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 Romania is nearly 43% towards achieving that aim. This means that 43% of Romanian homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.
Romania has overcome some major problems to create a broadband infrastructure which compares well with its neighbours. Customers in the towns may have as many as five different broadband providers to choose from, each one offering different technical solutions. Similar situations exist to a limited extent in a few other countries, but Romania is unique in taking it so far.
The report, which shows what Romania has achieved, 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 Romania can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe. Almost 43% can already get superfast broadband (also known as NGA, for Next Generation Access) providing 30 Mbps (Megabits per second) or more. 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 aim 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 Romania is concerned, the map shows that Bucharest is clearly ahead of the rest of the country. While the capital has 82% superfast coverage no other area has better than 60%. The more urban provinces mostly have between 60% and 35% with most of the rest of the country between 30% and 20%. The exception is the far north-eastern province, Botosani, with only 9%.
The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market, as illustrated on the chart. Versions of all three superfast technologies are on offer in Romania and the market has shown ingenuity in applying them. In particular they provide cost-effective ways of serving the large apartment blocks which dominate the housing stock in the towns and cities of Romania.
As for the EU as a whole, Docsis 3, providing superfast broadband over cable TV networks is the most important superfast technology, covering 23% of the country, compared with a 37% average for Europe.
Second are various solutions depending on VDSL, the technology used to provide superfast broadband over telephone lines, which provides 21% coverage on average for the EU countries. VDSL is used in combination with various other technologies in Romania, so Point Topic identifies this group of solutions as “VDSL*” and estimates they reach 17% of Romanian homes. Regular VDSL has a similar reach, 21%, across the EU as a whole.
Finally there are the pure FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) solutions. Here Romania is very much in line with EU coverage, reaching 13% of Romanian homes compared with a 12% average for the EU.
“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 43% in Romania.” 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
DSL* (Romania only) – including a variety of solutions, typically involving shared backhaul from LAN or coaxial cable distribution within apartment blocks, which provide download speeds of under 30Mbps
VDSL (Very-fast DSL) – provides superfast speeds (30Mbps or more) over the telephone network
VDSL* (Romania only) – solutions offering 30Mbps and above, either by VDSL direct to the end-user or fibre backhaul from in-building VDSL distribution
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.