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EU Confirms Goal of UNIVERSAL 100Mbps Broadband for All by 2025

Wednesday, Sep 14th, 2016 (12:26 pm) - Score 2,022

The European Commission has officially unveiled its future Connectivity proposals, which among other things include a new target for “all European households” to get a minimum Internet download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025, with businesses and the public sector being told to expect 1Gbps+.

At present the existing Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) strategy, which was originally adopted in May 2010, is currently still trying to deliver on its promise of ensuring that very home in the EU can access a 30Mbps+ capable Next Generation Access (NGA) superfast broadband connection (plus 50% subscribed to a 100Mbps+ service) by the year 2020.

So far the progress has been mixed, with the latest EU Digital Progress Report 2016 (data from 2015) finding that only 71% of the EU can access an NGA broadband connection and this falls to just 28% in rural areas. The United Kingdom has fared better than most, with a score of 90.5% for NGA coverage and this drops to 47.4% in rural areas (the Broadband Delivery UK programme should take this to around 97% by 2019).

At this point we should touch on the UK’s decision to leave the EU, which is likely to occur around 2020 when the original DAE targets are due to be achieved. Strictly speaking the UK might simply choose to ignore the new targets and be less ambitious (the EC’s proposals are “non-binding connectivity targets“), but we’d like to think that the Government will instead strive to keep us competitive and adapt their approach accordingly.

The EU’s 3 Strategic Connectivity Objectives for 2025

1. All main socio-economic drivers, such as schools, universities, research centres, transport hubs, all providers of public services such as hospitals and administrations, and enterprises relying on digital technologies, should have access to extremely high – gigabit – connectivity (allowing users to download/upload 1 gigabit of data per second).

2. All European households, rural or urban, should have access to connectivity offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps, which can be upgraded to Gbps.

3. All urban areas as well as major roads and railways should have uninterrupted 5G coverage, the fifth generation of wireless communication systems. As an interim target, 5G should be commercially available in at least one major city in each EU Member State by 2020. A target speed of 50Mbps is referenced.

On top of that the EU has put forward the WiFi4EU plan, which proposes to “equip every European village and every city with free [WiFi] wireless Internet access around the main centres of public life” by 2020. This could present an economic and technical challenge in some of the most remote rural areas (expensive Satellite backhaul perhaps?).

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said:

“Without first-class communication networks, there will be no Digital Single Market. We need connectivity that people can afford and use while on the move. To achieve that, spectrum policies must be better coordinated across the EU. More competition and further integration of the European market will allow us to reach these goals, helped by the right environment created by the new Communications Code.”

The new Gigabit Society proposals also cover future 5G mobile and other digital services, but most of those contain predictable targets (e.g. beginning the roll-out of 5G by 2020 and completing it by 2025 etc.) and are largely viable. By comparison the new proposal for a minimum speed of 100Mbps for all by 2025 could be more of a challenge.

Looking at the UK, Openreach’s (BT) commercial G.fast roll-out, which will commence from next summer 2017, and Virgin Media’s on-going HFC cable + FTTP network expansion should bring broadband speeds of around 100-300Mbps to most of the UK (around 60-70%) without recourse to public funding by 2020.

We should add that BT’s has also promised to extend G.fast to “most” UK homes by 2025, but that probably won’t push the overall coverage figure much beyond 60-70% because by then Virgin Media will have already delivered into most of the same areas (i.e. G.fast should reach around 40% of the UK by 2020 and then maybe 60-70% by 2025).

No doubt 5G mobile services will help, although mobile performance is notoriously variable and can become slower outside of urban areas. As such the main focus for fixed line connectivity will be on how to deliver 100Mbps+ or even 1Gbps+ services to the more economically unviable final 30% (this may require a repeat of the state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK programme).

Funding

The EC admits that these objectives “can only be achieved with massive investments” and it has therefore proposed a new European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) including “forward-looking and simplified rules that make it more attractive for all companies to invest in new top-quality infrastructures, everywhere in the EU, both locally and across national borders”. This sounds a bit like the UK’s new Digital Economy Bill 2016-17.

Apparently the investments triggered by the new framework could boost EU GDP by an additional €910 billion (£773bn) and create 1.3 million new jobs over the next decade. In addition to the Code, the Commission also presented an action plan to deploy 5G across the EU as from 2018 (“early network introduction“); this, they claim, has the potential to create two million jobs in the EU.

The EC estimates that reaching all of these connectivity objectives over the next decade is estimated to require €500 billion investment, most of which “will largely have to come from private sources” (this seems a little bit like wishful thinking). However, under current investment trends, the EU said “there is likely to be a €155 billion investment shortfall” and that’s where the above EECC changes come in (further details); easier said than done.

The new pledge will also be supported by a series other changes, such as a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband connectivity, although this doesn’t look as if it will be able to match the UK’s proposed 10Mbps USO.

Readers will note that we first revealed the new 100Mbps by 2025 plan all the way back in July 2016 (here), but that was based off a leak.

UPDATE 15th September 2016

Added a comment from the Government.

A DCMS Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We note the Commission’s proposals, and the UK is committed to ensuring that consumers and business can get the connectivity levels that meet their needs.”

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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