Superfast broadband is an investment opportunity for Italy

November 18, 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 by 2020.  A new study by broadband specialists Point Topic shows Italy has started on that road, with nearly 11% of homes having access to superfast broadband if they choose.  This means that 11% of Italian homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.

Italy has been successful in delivering basic broadband services to a high proportion of homes.  It is ahead of European averages for basic broadband coverage for the country as a whole and for its rural areas.  But Italy has one of the lowest levels of superfast broadband coverage in Europe.  The need to fill the gap creates a major opportunity for investment.

The report which reveals the situation in Italy 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 99% of the homes in Italy can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe.  Almost 11% can 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.

Superfast broadband coverage map in Italy (end 2011)

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

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. The variations are particularly large in Italy, where NGA coverage mainly reflects the rollout of its pioneering FTTP network.  (FTTP, for fibre-to-the-premises, provides superfast broadband over optical fibre running to apartment blocks or all the way to individual homes.)  Milan, where the fibre network started, has 55% coverage.  Fourteen more regions, home to Italy’s other big cities, have between 35% and 10%.  Another four have about 1% and the remaining 88 have nothing so far.

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart.  Here Italy has a double problem.  It lacks cable TV networks, which are the biggest provider of superfast broadband services across Europe as a whole.  At the same time VDSL services, which provide superfast broadband over the telephone network, have yet to get going.

“Italy has got good basic broadband coverage but it badly needs to develop superfast choices,” explains Tim Johnson, who led the project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst.  “There are signs of this happening now as the big operators are starting to roll out fibre-based solutions but Italy is going to need rapid and massive investment to reach the Digital Agenda target for 2020,” says Johnson.

Broadband coverage in Italy - comparison with the European Union

Figure 2 Comparison of broadband coverage in Italy 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 [email protected] or Emma Johnson at [email protected] or on: +44 1636 812152.