November 13, 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 the Netherlands has already achieved that aim. This means that all Dutch homes can subscribe to superfast broadband services delivering at least 30Mbps (megabits per second) of bandwidth if they wish. Taken as a whole, the Netherlands has the most fully developed broadband infrastructure in Europe.
The report which identifies the Netherlands’ leadership position 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 broadband coverage in the Netherlands is now virtually complete. Not only can 100% of homes now get basic broadband, meaning services offering at least 144kbps (kilobits per second), but the whole of the Netherlands can also 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 barely 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. The Netherlands is one of the few exceptions. As the map shows, the whole country already has uniformly complete coverage of superfast or NGA broadband. At least partly this is because the Netherlands has a very low proportion of the population living in rural areas, which are usually the last to get the benefit of new communications networks.
The study also shows how competing technologies are sharing out the superfast broadband market as illustrated on the chart. In the Netherlands, two superfast technologies, Docsis 3 broadband over the cable TV network, and VDSL , which provides superfast speeds over the telephone network, both have virtually complete coverage. This is very different from the picture for the EU as a whole, where Docsis 3 has 37% coverage overall and VDSL only 21%.
The Netherlands is more typical when it comes to FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) coverage however. FTTP coverage in the Netherlands is just 13% compared with 12% for the EU as a whole.
“In most countries superfast coverage is a patchwork, with different networks overlapping in many areas and others left unserved,” explains Tim Johnson, who led the project as Point Topic’s Chief Analyst. “But the Netherlands is different, with both Docsis 3 and VDSL covering the whole country.” The problem in most countries is that the superfast operators compete to serve the richer and more densely populated areas in each country, leaving others underserved. “But that doesn’t apply in the Netherlands with its highly urbanised population and favourable geography,” 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.