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Analyst Predicts EU Superfast Broadband Coverage to Miss its 2020 Target

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 (1:12 pm) - Score 1,254

A new study has claimed that Europe will fail to make superfast broadband (30Mbps+) ISP speeds available to 100% of households by 2020. But it will achieve 90% coverage and most of that will be due to the mass adoption of hybrid-fibre (e.g. FTTC and cable) technologies that combine fibre optic with existing copper or coax cables.

Europe’s Digital Agenda currently aims to achieve 100% coverage of basic broadband services (0.5-4Mbps) by the end of 2013 and it also wants superfast speeds to be made available to 100% of EU homes by 2020 (with 50% able to access 100Mbps+). As it stands the current level of EU superfast coverage is about 54% (details).

But new research from UK telecoms analyst Point Topic claims that the EU will fall short of their headline ambition but should still achieve 90% coverage of superfast connectivity. It also finds that copper-based broadband technology (FTTC/VDSL) will continue to dominate because it’s cheaper to deploy than a full fibre optic (FTTH/P) network and “fully capable of meeting the 30Mbps target“.

hybrid fibre broadband coverage in europe by 2020

The report states that existing EU FTTC/VDSL solutions typically deliver speeds that range from 25Mbps to 40Mbps (note: BT’s own solution in the UK peaks at up to 80Mbps) but they expect this to double in 2014 when Vectoring technology starts to be deployed (latest update on the UK trial), which cuts out a lot of interference and can thus improve speeds.

More to the point Hybrid Fibre services are growing at the fastest rate. Apparently the number of homes which can subscribe to FTTC has increased by 5.6% to reach 24.9% by the end of 2012 and coverage of cable (DOCSIS 3 etc.) grew by 2.7%; although it’s still ahead of FTTC for now with 39.3% coverage of homes (note: in the UK FTTC has just overtaken cables reach). By comparison FTTH/P grew by 2.4% and covers just 12.3% of the EU.

Point Topics Report said:

The reason why Docsis 3 and FTTP grew more slowly than VDSL, and are expected to continue doing so in future, is mainly economic. Docsis 3 spread very rapidly in the period 2010 to 2012 because it required just a simple upgrade to existing cable TV networks. But that process is almost complete now and further growth will require building new cable networks which is hard to justify financially.

Similarly, extending the coverage of FTTP will also mean building new networks. Much of the FTTP coverage in Europe to date serves areas of high-density housing, such as apartment blocks in the eastern EU. FTTP can be the cheapest solution in these circumstances, particularly if there is no telephone network. But the most attractive areas are largely covered now, so FTTP growth is also slow.

Based on these scenarios, Point Topic projects that all three technologies will continue growing in coverage, but VDSL will grow much faster as it spreads across the existing telephone network.

In fairness not all cable networks are equal and Virgin Media has already informed us that the potential adoption of next generation DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which is likely to take place around 2015/16, could be done without needing to completely replace the old network and would still deliver a significant capacity boost (here).

Otherwise Point Topic expects FTTC to reach about 73% of EU homes by 2020, while DOCSIS 3 cable will cover 45% and FTTH/P only 16%. But FTTH/P could rise to 21% or more, depending on various factors like funding, regulation and so forth.

No doubt the advocates of true fibre optic connectivity would be quick to point out that FTTC is still distance dependent and will thus never be as fast as a true FTTH/P solution. Similarly FTTH would be fairly future proof and we might otherwise need to go back and re-invest in order to bring the fibre optic cable even closer to homes (BT will probably solve this through FTTdp and G.Fast).

Meanwhile it’s worth mentioning that the United Kingdom has recently revised its target and now aims for 95% of people to be within reach of a superfast broadband (25-30Mbps+) connection by 2017 (note: it should reach about 88% by the end of 2015) and the vast majority of this will be from cable or FTTC connections.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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26 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    🙂

    Which totally trumps those that say “Rest of Europe is deploying FTTP/H”

  2. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Just wondering: what do BT deploy for new housing estates where they have deployed fibre services to local cabs? Especially as government economic policy seems to be based on subsidising the new-build housing industry. Nothing new there, then.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      There’s a doc on the Openreach website somewhere for New Builds and its basically up to the developer, they can choose from fibre or copper and have been able to for some time now.

  3. Avatar DTMark says:

    I’m fatigued with all the “plans”, or what more accurately seem to be “goals” or “aims” – words which have a rather different meaning.

    I’d thought that by 2020 we were all going to have affordable 100Meg services, which means we need to get digging very quickly if we’re to get anywhere near that and get some fibre laid to premises. There is, so far as I can see, no technology plan at the moment at all.

    Perhaps it’s a “goal” or an “aim” instead?

    Since, by 2020, 30Meg won’t seriously qualify as superfast broadband.

  4. Avatar dragoneast says:

    I think the more important question is what we need 100Meg services for (or even 30Meg+, and perhaps even 10Meg+). I think the real problem with the internet is lack of content, because that’s what costs the money. A future where we all sit indoors watching HD streams all day? That’s not to say that some people don’t think they need it and will make use of it. I’d like a 200mph supercar at someone else’s expense. I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but that’s irrelevant. You don’t need everything you want. But democracy isn’t about satisfying the few at the cost of the many, or North Korea and its ilk would be the bastion of democracy. Perhaps it is? Most people have to make do or help themselves: always have and always will. Even though the modern world still provides more help than ever before.

  5. Avatar ant says:

    “I’d thought that by 2020 we were all going to have affordable 100Meg services”

    Not with BT doing the majority of rollout in the UK

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Please explain.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      He can’t he is just trolling maybe he needs to revisit the site rules

    3. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      @FibreFred: Care to show how BT will provide affordable 100Mbps services to the majority of UK households by 2020? Your beloved FTTC won’t do.

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      JNeuhoff,

      I think we need to get some things straight first if we may 🙂

      DTMark has misquoted. Europes “aim” is to get 50% of households on 100Mbps by 2020, that doesn’t equate to the majority of the UK no matter how you cut it. It would probably mean only a small fraction would be required in the UK to meet this aim, in fact after a quick bit of rough maths if every country in Europe did its bit only 5.8Million would need to have access to 100M in each country so we already meet that with Virgin’s network never mind BT’s

      But if you want to see how FTTC can (based on trials) reach 100M and beyond you only have to look at this very site

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/01/alcatel-lucent-isp-trials-deliver-130mbps-via-vdsl2-broadband-vectoring.html

    5. Avatar DTMark says:

      Does indeed appear that I was misquoting. This is probably what I was thinking of

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/11/european-itre-committee-wants-100mbps-broadband-for-all-by-2020.html

      100Meg downstream – could cope with 3 video streams simultaneously perhaps at a quality level similar to Blu-Ray.

      I’m not convinced that the DOCSIS3 network in its present form could deliver 100Meg to a high number of households on a particular segment simultaneously at say 7pm.

      BT’s FTTC won’t be able to do this either unless the laws of physics with copper and aluminium can be overcome.

      Then there’s the backhaul..

      Not being able to watch video on demand when you want is probably not the end of the world, it has always been a problem for a significant minority to date anyway at SD levels.

      But 100Meg doesn’t sound like a particularly high target to be looking at in seven years.

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Why won’t (based on trials) FTTC be able to do it, did you read the link I posted?

      As for watching video on demand I can stream 1080p right now on FTTC before any future upgrades are done

    7. Avatar DTMark says:

      I have read that, yes. All vectoring does is give the user the speed they ought to have got relative to the line length anyway. There’s just no way of delivering 100Mbps en masse with copper and aliminium unless there’s some new development which enables this.

      I can stream 1080p on our 3G connection perfectly but that’s not much of a challenge, any basic broadband connection should manage that (broadband = 6Meg or more). Come 2020, will we still be watching at 1080p? I thought Blu-Ray quality needed about 35Meg down.

      As the years pass the target cannot remain static.

    8. Avatar FibreFred says:

      But that’s just vectoring the article talks about vectoring + bonding

    9. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      @FibreFred: I know you are a BT spokes person sitting on a FTTC line, so here is the question: Where exactly does BT offer multiple lines bonding for naked VDSL broadband only?

    10. Avatar FibreFred says:

      JNeuhoff, why are you trying to score points asking for something you know currently does not exist, this is future tech we are talking about as you know. Something that could be in place/rolled out prior to 2020

    11. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      There are still some BT day dreamers out there on this forum. Vectoring will not result in a big breakthrough!

      According to BT: “We believe other technologies such as vectoring could see some FTTC lines deliver 100Mbps or above, though these new technologies will not be applicable on all lines”

      To give 2 examples on this:

      Even with vectoring, we can still expect a whopping 70% of copper VDSL lines to be less than 100mbps. And at least 10% won’t even see speeds faster than 40mbps. Nobody can beat the law of physics for copper wires.

      BT will not give up its copper line monopoly, nor its leased line business. Don’t expect VDSL multi line bonding nor fibre-on-demand to become available anytime soon.

    12. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Well.. I’m optimistic, no-one else in the UK is going to roll out faster speeds on such a scale. 100M will certainly be available to purchase by 2020 by FTTPoD (well within a year I expect) but hopefully it can be achieved on the cheap without the need for full FTTP a lot can happen in 6yrs.. in less than 6yrs we’ve gone from ADSL <24Mbps to 40Mbps and now 76Mbps

    13. Avatar TheFacts says:

      What’s the problem with copper as a delivery method if it provides a product many will buy? FoD will become available for those that want faster speeds.

    14. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      @FibreFred: “in less than 6yrs we’ve gone from ADSL <24Mbps to 40Mbps and now 76Mbps"

      Highly misleading. In fact, probably less than 15% of VDSL users will get speeds faster than 76mbps. And a significant 10% of VDSL lines won't even get faster than 24mbps. The reality is, the step towards copper VDSL does not represent a big jump for many.

      @TheFacts: Fibre-on-Demand won't be available for a long time to come, ask BT if you don't believe us. BTs current trials are nothing more than a publicity stunt! BT has no interest in loosing its leased line business.

    15. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Fact , probably

      Which is it? are you citing facts or your own thoughts?

    16. Avatar FibreFred says:

      And “The reality is, the step towards copper VDSL does not represent a big jump for many.”

      Maybe your view of reality, thankfully it isn’t true at all.

      ADSL to ADSL2+ didn’t result in a big jump for many, the jump to VDSL results in a large jump for many, I’d say my own case is pretty normal, going from 2M to 60M

    17. Avatar MikeW says:

      @JNeuhoff
      Are you making up numbers again?

      Quote 1: “Even with vectoring, we can still expect a whopping 70% of copper VDSL lines to be less than 100mbps.”

      Quote 2: “In fact, probably less than 15% of VDSL users will get speeds faster than 76mbps.”

      Quote 3: “And at least 10% won’t even see speeds faster than 40mbps. ”

      Quote 4: “And a significant 10% of VDSL lines won’t even get faster than 24mbps.”

      You can’t even stay consistent with yourself!

      Alcatel’s trials of Vectoring suggest that 100Mbps is perfectly possible out to 500 metres from the cabinet. They get 200Mbps at 400 metres using both bonding and vectoring.

      The same trials are using vectoring (without bonding) to get 40Mbps out to 1300 metres. I guess you can expect something in the region of 60-80Mbps if bonding were in use too.

      What’s the significance of those distances? According to the Sagentia report from 2010, 50% of the UK premises are within 400 metres of their PCP cabinet, and 60% are within 500 metres. 90% of premises are within 1200 metres.

      I agree that the final 10% are a mess, either due to the excess cabinet distance or the total lack of a cabinet. But, just because VDSL2/copper is not the right solution for those properties, shouldn’t make us throw it away for the other 90%.

      Undoubtedly, BT’s trials will give us a better idea about how previous trial results apply to the BT network. Will they be at the better end, or worse end? Who knows…

  6. Avatar ant says:

    Requoted the statement made and capitalised the key words for him of many guises…

    “I’d thought that by 2020 WE WERE ALL going to have affordable 100Meg services”

    BT does not even cover 100% (AKA AS ALL) of the UK with ADSL let alone FTTC, or any other daydream of 100Mb or better.

    I hope that explains and helps with your selective reading disorder.

  7. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    This is all about bone headed euro mp’s trying to set targets (which will not be achieved in the UK) to make themselves look good. Again proving a point that they know very little or nothing at all about the supply and provision of broardband anywhere.

  8. Avatar once upon a time says:

    can not see the point of this super fast internet with all this website blocking censorship nanny state nonesense good days over just look forward to corporate run mega shopping channel mainstream pay up movie junk tv show dross internet coming to you soon

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