The European Commission (EC) has quietly published an updated annual report into the coverage of superfast broadband (Next Generation Access) services around the EU, which shows that good progress is being made in most areas towards achieving the Digital Agenda goals (e.g. 30Mbps+ for all by 2020) but some countries are dragging their feet.
Somehow this report slipped under the Internet’s radar last week but we managed to pluck it from obscurity and found some interesting statistics. Firstly it’s important to remember that two of the EU’s key Digital Agenda aims were to deliver “basic” (0.5-4Mbps) and “competitively-priced” broadband internet access to all Europeans by 2013 and for everybody within the EU to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps+ by 2020 (with 50% or more households subscribing to 100Mbps+).
The results (based on 2012 data) reveal that standard broadband connectivity is already available to the vast majority of premises (99.4% overall [fixed, wireless etc.] or 95.5% if you only count fixed line services), which means 207 million premises across Europe can now get online with something better than dialup. By comparison the United Kingdom hovers around 99.95% overall or 99.8% for fixed lines.
But sadly fixed line superfast broadband (NGA) connections still have a long way to go and currently only cover 53.7% of EU premises (112 million premises), which is up slightly from 50.2% (105 million) last year due to some countries dragging their feet a bit. This falls to a figure of only 12.4% for coverage in rural areas.
Thankfully the United Kingdom’s rapid roll-out of hybrid fibre (FTTC/VDSL, DOCSIS3 cable) technology, which might not be as fast as full fibre optic (FTTH/P) but it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to deploy, means that NGA availability has risen from 58.3% (18.6% in rural areas) in 2011 to 70.3% (18.2%) now (note: Ofcom’s latest 2013 data points to this having reached roughly 75%).
It’s interesting to note that the rural NGA split for the UK hasn’t changed and that’s mostly because the majority of hybrid fibre deployments have continued to focus on urban or sub-urban areas, although we expect the data for 2013 (due this time next year of course) to show a mild improvement thanks to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme and other altnet projects. However it might still be the case that rural areas won’t see a big improvement until the 2014 – 2017 period (i.e. the current focus tends to be upon improving sub-urban areas first).
Meanwhile it’s easy to see just how dominant hybrid fibre and cable have become across Europe by looking at this breakdown of technology types and coverage.
NGA might be growing but a quick look at the Point Topic based data shows that it still has a long way to go before the slower old style copper ADSL (DSL) based broadband connections are cannibalised out of the market through NGA adoption.
Broadband Coverage in Europe (2012)