November 6, 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 Spain is now almost 61% towards achieving that aim. This means that 61% of Spanish homes can already subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.
In fact Spain has wider superfast broadband coverage than any of the other large European countries except Germany, and it is well ahead of the average for bringing superfast broadband to rural areas as well. In terms of the number of homes passed by superfast services, Spain, with 10.2m, is well ahead of Italy and almost equal with France. Nearly 10% of all the EU homes with access to superfast broadband are in Spain.
The report which details Spain’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, the new study shows that 97% of the homes in Spain 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. Looking at the 29 study countries as a whole (all 27 members of the EU, plus Norway and Iceland), 96% of homes 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 Spain is concerned, the map shows that some areas (Asturias, Vizcaya and Valencia) already have 100% coverage of superfast or NGA broadband. Most of Spain has at least 35% superfast coverage but some rural areas, such as Badajoz, are below 15% .
The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart. In Spain, Docsis 3 broadband over the cable TV network is the most important superfast technology with 52% coverage. This reflects the situation across Europe as a whole where Docsis 3 also leads on 37%. VDSL, which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, comes second in Spain on 12% against 21% for Europe as a whole. FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises, meaning to apartment blocks or individual homes) is least developed with 10% against a 12% average.
“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 Spain.” 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 issue,” 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.