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EC reports 96% LTE coverage of households and 76% fixed broadband coverage

Deutsche Telekom broadband

© Deutsche Telekom

  • Report conducted by IHS Markit and Point Topic covers the year to June 2016
  • VDSL remains the fastest growing fixed broadband technology
  • Yet only 39 per cent rural households have high-speed broadband access
  • In 11 European countries, LTE coverage reached 99 per cent of homes

The European Commission (EC) has published its report into the state of broadband coverage in Europe for 2016 (the political gravy train runs slowly in Europe) and concluded that at the end of June 2016, 75.9 per cent of EU homes had access to high-speed (at least 30Mbit/s downlink) broadband services and 96 per cent of EU households were covered by LTE networks.

This is the fourth edition of the study conducted by research firms IHS Markit and Point Topic, providing data and analysis for 31 countries across Europe. VDSL continues to be the key driver of Next-Generation Access (NGA) coverage growth across the EU, increasing by 7.1 percentage points and reaching 48.2 per cent of homes. In total, 12.8 million new households gained access to high-speed broadband delivered via NGA networks in the 12 months to the end of June 2016.

“Since 2013, VDSL has been the fastest growing fixed broadband technology tracked by the study, and some countries have seen dramatic year-on-year growth in VDSL,” said Alzbeta Fellenbaum, principal analyst at IHS Markit and manager of the project. “For instance, VDSL coverage in Italy more than doubled during the twelve-month period to mid-2016, as coverage increased by 33.6 percentage points. Iceland, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia also witnessed double-digit growth in VDSL coverage during the twelve-month period to mid-2016.”

But it was mobile that provided the best coverage (albeit at a price).

“Availability of LTE services has become near-universal in many study countries,” said Fellenbaum. “In 11 countries, LTE coverage reached 99 per cent of households and overall, LTE coverage now reaches similar levels to those of 3G HSPA networks. This is a major improvement compared to just four years ago, when LTE services were available to only 59.1 per cent of EU homes.”

The ever-present digital divide

However, the ever-present threat of a digital divide still remains. The report says that the gap between rural and national NGA coverage is closing, but remains significant with only 39.2 per cent rural households across the EU having access to high-speed broadband services.

Access to broadband services in rural areas remains a key priority for the EU. At the end of June 2016, 92.6 per cent of rural households across the EU28 (excluding Iceland, Norway and Switzerland from the list of 31 countries studied) had access to at least one fixed broadband technology. However, only 39.2 per cent – 12.0 million rural households – could benefit from NGA broadband. Still, rural NGA coverage increased by 9.5 percentage points in the year to June 2016 and in total, 2.9 million additional rural households gained access to NGA services in that time.

“Moreover, we have seen that the gap between rural and national coverage, for both overall fixed and NGA technologies, is declining compared to previous editions of the study suggesting increasing investment in rural broadband,” added Fellenbaum.

Copper upgrades appear to be key for high-speed broadband growth in Europe. The report says that broadband network operators across Europe continue to focus their deployment strategies on upgrading existing copper DSL networks instead of investing in the typically more expensive deployments of FTTP networks.

As in previous years, Greece and Belgium reported the lowest levels of FTTP coverage, at 0.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent. In the UK, FTTP coverage was (shamefully) only slightly higher at 1.8 per cent. Contrast this with Portugal, where 86.1 per cent of homes are now passed by FTTP networks.

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