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EU Boost Fibre and Admit Failing its 2020 Ultrafast Broadband Target UPDATE

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 (9:16 am) - Score 1,450
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The European Commission has approved a new Electronic Communications Code (ECC) that could boost investment in “full fibre” (FTTP/H) and 5G mobile. At the same time a new report from the European Court of Auditors confirms that their original target for “ultrafast broadband” (100Mbps+) take-up will be missed.

The EU set its first major broadband targets all the way back in 2010 as part of their Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) strategy, which among other things aimed to ensure that every household in the EU could access a 30Mbps+ capable Next Generation Access (NGA) superfast broadband connection (plus 50% subscribed to an ultrafast 100Mbps+ service) by the year 2020.

At the time we speculated that this would be very difficult for many countries to achieve and that the 50% take-up figure for 100Mbps+ looked particularly unachievable, not least because it combined the challenge of coverage with ensuring that people actually purchased the service once it was available (take-up of new networks can take years to grow when done organically).

In keeping with that a recent 2018 progress report (here) suggested that only some counties, including the UK, may actually achieve or get close to the 30Mbps+ coverage goal and the 100Mbps+ take-up aspiration of 50% could be missed by nearly everybody (the EU average is currently only 15.4% or 14.6% in the UK).

Now a new report from the European Court of Auditors has confirmed that “not all targets set for 2020 will be met” and the “goal of ensuring that half of European households have ultra-fast broadband connections by 2020 is significantly behind target.” As usual rural areas “remain problematic in most Member States” (14 out of all 28 Member States had less than 50% fast broadband coverage in rural areas).

Iliana Ivanova, Member of the EU Court of Auditors, said:

“For Europe to remain competitive in the global economy, and for the benefit of citizens and government, the good levels of internet speed and access provided by broadband are essential. It is important that the EU sets itself challenging and realistic targets for broadband in the future – and meets them. We make recommendations in the areas of strategic planning, the regulatory environment and fostering competition.”

The report also noted that financing needs for broadband infrastructure in rural and suburban areas “were not always properly addressed” and the European Investment Bank support did not focus on areas of greatest need. According to the European Commission, up to €250 billion will be required to achieve the Europe 2020 targets for broadband across all Member States. About half of this amount may be needed for rural areas.

Report Recommendations

• Member States should develop new plans for the period after 2020;

• The European Commission should clarify the application of State Aid guidelines and support Member States’ efforts to foster more competition in broadband;

• The European Investment Bank should focus its support on small- and medium-size projects in areas where public sector support is most needed.

Speaking of new plans, in 2016 the European Commission proposed a new non-binding Gigabit Society target for “all European households” to get a minimum download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025, with businesses and the public sector being told to expect 1Gbps+ (here). Since then this seems to have been swept under the carpet and that may be because it’s difficult to raise a new target when you haven’t met the first ones.

Meanwhile the European Commission appears to have reached an agreement on the revised European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which is similar to the ECC in the UK in that it also governs the rules around how telecoms operators access public or private land in order to build new networks.

The UK has already revised its ECC rules to encourage investment in new fibre optic and mobile networks, thus we suspect that the EU’s changes will follow a similar approach. Certainly the FTTH Council Europe seems to support the changes, not least because the new code appears to be centred around encouraging fibre optic infrastructure.

Erzsébet Fitori, Director General of the FTTH Council Europe, said:

“There is clearly a momentum for fibre investment. We see a lot of the emerging wholesale-only vehicles backed by new types of investors and now there is also more room for step change investments made in a safeguarded competitive structure to be governed by a commercially driven scheme.

There is opportunity in the new Code for full fibre investors and a win-win for end-users, who will benefit from fibre based connectivity and long-term competition.”

At the time of writing we have not yet been able to see the new code in order to judge how it differs from the UK’s revision, although Brexit could soon make any debate about all this somewhat moot.

UPDATE 10:58am

The European Parliament and the Council have now put out their own press releases on the new telecoms rules / EECC, which were agreed last night. Sadly we don’t get much additional detail but there is a useful summary.

The new Electronic Communications Code will:

Enhance the deployment of 5G networks by ensuring the availability of 5G radio spectrum by end of 2020 in the EU and providing operators with predictability for at least 20 years in terms of spectrum licensing; including on the basis of better coordination of planned radio spectrum assignments.

Facilitate the roll-out of new, very high capacity fixed networks by making rules for co-investment more predictable and promoting risk sharing in the deployment of very high capacity networks; promoting sustainable competition for the benefit of consumers, with a regulatory emphasis on the real bottlenecks, such as wiring, ducts and cables inside buildings; and a specific regulatory regime for wholesale only operators. Moreover, the new rules will also ensure closer cooperation between the Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (includes Ofcom in the UK) in supervising measures related to the new key access provisions of co-investment and symmetric regulation.

Benefit and protect consumers, irrespective of whether end-users communicate through traditional (calls, sms) or web-based services (Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) by:

* ensuring that all citizens have access to affordable communications services, including universally available internet access, for services such as egovernment, online banking or video calls;
* ensuring that international calls within the EU will not cost more than 19 cents per minute, while making sure that the new rules would not distort competition, innovation and investment;
* giving equivalent access to communications for end-users with disabilities;
* promoting better tariff transparency and comparison of contractual offers;
* guaranteeing better security against hacking, malware, etc.;
* better protecting consumers subscribing to bundled service packages;
* making it easier to change service provider and keep the same phone number, including rules for compensations if the process goes wrong or takes too long;
* increasing protection of citizens in emergency situations, including retrieving more accurate caller location in emergency situations, broadening emergency communications to text messaging and video calls, and establishing a system to transmit public warnings on mobile phones.

Member States will now have 2 years to transpose the new code into national law and that’s after Brexit, although Ofcom have either already implemented or is considering similar changes in the UK.

On top of that the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027 has today proposed to renew the ‘Connecting Europe Facility‘, with €42.3 billion to support investments in European infrastructure networks, although most of that will go toward transport (€30.6 billion), energy (€8.7 billion) and digital only gets €3 billion.

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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.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    Look out for a plan and a target.

  2. Avatar Virgin

    No benefit for the UK because we leave eu

    • At this stage we don’t yet know what the final Brexit model is, so it’s not possible to say “no benefit” with certainty.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Given it’s little more than platitudes, then there never would be any benefit from the EU as such. All the heavy lifting will be done by national governments (if at all). Just about the only directly EU related part was there were regional development funds (as in Cornwall).

      Much of this is already within Ofcom’s remit already.

  3. Avatar gerarda

    The EU missed their basic broadband target in 2013, so they reduced the speed required to count as broadband by 80%. Watch out for a similar fiddle if the target is not reached

    • I don’t think they reduced the speed. What they did was simply say, it’s done.. because SATELLITE. At which point everybody else rolled their eyes toward the sky.

    • Avatar Gerarda

      The original speed requirement was 256Kbps. This was reduced to 56Kbps. The satellite was an added fiddle but appeared to be less of one as the numbers it needed to cover were reduced by the lower speed target

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