Sweden falls behind in superfast broadband

November 5, 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 Sweden is now almost 51% towards achieving that aim. This means that 51% of Swedish homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about Sweden’s broadband coverage is that it is only average for Europe in its superfast rollout.  Its early commitment to FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) has not yet translated into leadership in high-speed “Next Generation Access” (NGA).  Sweden is sustaining its reputation for leading-edge communications technology rather better in mobile broadband, with almost 100% coverage of HSPA, the up-to-date standard for 3G broadband, and second place in Europe for coverage by LTE, the fourth-generation mobile technology.

The study showing where Sweden stands 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 Sweden can now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), if they want to subscribe.  Nearly 51% 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 aim for 2020 – can get superfast.

Superfast broadband coverage map in Sweden (end 2011)

Figure 1 Next generation access broadband coverage map – Sweden (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.  As far as Sweden is concerned, the map shows that Stockholm is the only area with over 65% coverage – in fact it is 80%.  Most of the rest of the country has over 35% coverage, including all the more northern provinces as well as the more urbanised central belt.  The more agricultural areas in the south and centre, and the Baltic islands make up most of the eight areas with under 35% coverage.

The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart.  In Sweden, FTTP is the most important superfast technology with 35% coverage, well ahead of the 12% for the EU as a whole, but only eighth highest among European countries. Docsis 3, providing superfast broadband over cable TV networks, is second with 26%, some way behind the EU figure of 37%.  Finally, VDSL coverage is a low 10%, since Sweden has opted for only a limited rollout, against the European average of 21%.“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 51% in Sweden.”  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 Sweden - comparison with the European Union

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

Key to technologies DSL – provides broadband speeds up to 24 megabits per second over the telephone networkVDSL (Very-fast DSL) – provides superfast speeds (30Mbps or more) over the telephone networkFTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) – delivers the fastest possible broadband over optical fibre to apartment blocks or all the way to individual homesWiMAX – the up-to-date standard for broadband over wireless links to fixed aerialsStandard cable – provides broadband over cable TV networks using older standardsDocsis 3 cable – the up-to-date standard for providing superfast broadband over cable TV networksHSPA – the up-to-date standard for mobile broadband over 3G networksLTE – the new standard for fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadbandSatellite – two-way broadband delivered over the newest satellites using KA-Band technologyStandard combination – shows the combined coverage of all the fixed-line broadband technologiesNGA 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.