The Digital Agenda for Europe is one of seven initiatives contemplated in the Europe 2020 strategy. It was launched by the European Commission in 2010 to promote European innovation and economic growth so that citizens and companies can harness all the economic and social potential of IT.
One of the main targets set by the Digital Agenda for Europe is to achieve broadband coverage of at least 30 Mbps for 100% of the citizens of the Union by that year. In addition, at least 50% of the population must have access to transfer speeds of 100 Mbps. To achieve this, authorities need to stimulate public and private investment in networks.
Current broadband coverage has reached 95% of the urban population in Europe, while in rural areas the level is considerably lower. “In countries like the United Kingdom or Germany, operators can’t seem to find sufficient arguments for making these investments and rolling out fibre in a large part of the territory. In the case of Spain, the leading operator has stated its intention to replace all copper pairs with fibre, even in rural areas, in communities of over 1,000 inhabitants. This makes it quite clear that it will be difficult for the coverage to reach 100% of the population, which will not help overcome the current digital divide, at least in the short term”, explains David H., Managing Director – ICT Division of ALTEN SPAIN.
As alternatives to FTTH, David proposes other networks that also achieve high speeds and which can be sufficient in many cases: FTTN/C networks (fibre to the node/curve) and 4G/ADSL hybrid networks. “With the former, speeds of up to 100 Mbps can currently be achieved, depending on the distance to the “node”, although with the development of new technologies it promises to reach and even exceed 250 Mbps. In the latter case, high-capacity connections (550 Mbps) enjoy in 95% of the territory (4G coverage).
Working solely on the basis of copper pairs, there are many countries (Spain and others on the continent) opting for intensive use of VDSL. For more extreme cases, we should rely on lower-capacity technologies: WiMAX or even solutions via satellite, although here we find much greater dispersion in services and prices, as well as in service quality, depending on the number of customers being served, distances and terrain, etc.”.
If we look towards 2020, the year by which the Commission has proposed for achieving its target: “Achieving it is not just a question of will but of creating a good mix between capacity, service, need and price. Large operators are clearly investing in the deployment of a new fibre network that will enable them to offer very high value-added services in the next five years. The economic component is always crucial for ensuring that the entire population is able to benefit from these technologies. And it is here that a new and less lucrative market opens up for other more modest companies: one aimed at a volume of around half a million homes (the figure may vary depending on the source) in places of little interest for the others”, he concludes.
In less than three years we will know if the target set by Brussels has been achieved and whether the speed indicated will be sufficient for the development of the digital services being used at that time.