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European Commission Digital Economy and Society Index: what’s the news on broadband?

European Commission Digital Economy and Society Index: what’s the news on broadband?

The annual Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) examines fixed line broadband ISP and mobile networks compare across all 27 EU countries.


DESI examines fixed and mobile broadband supply and demand and progress on the EU’s key digital infrastructure goal: every European household should have access to ‘high-speed’ (100Mbps+) internet coverage by the end of 2025 and gigabit (1000Mbps+) connectivity by the end of 2030. NExsT takes a closer look at the connectivity and broadband aspects of the 2022 report.

Over 188 million EU households (97.9%) had access to at least one of the main fixed broadband access technologies at the end of June 2021. When it comes to fixed broadband take-up, we see that 78% of EU households had a fixed broadband subscription in 2021, following steady growth over the last 9 years. National take-up rates ranged from 61% to 97% with The Netherlands, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta registering the highest figures. Coverage of Next Generation Access technologies capable of delivering >30 Mb/s download speeds reached 90.1% of households in 2021, a slight increase of 2.9 percentage points compared to the previous year.

Home internet access is mainly provided through fixed technologies, with stable coverage at 98%. xDSL (digital subscriber line) continued to have the largest footprint (89%) followed by Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) (58%), Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) (50%) and DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) 3.0 cable (44%). VDSL (Very high-speed digital subscriber line) coverage remained stable (54.5% of EU households), while cable DOCSIS 3.0 declined slightly. VDSL coverage growth has been decreasing since 2018 as operators have begun to divert investments towards more advanced technologies (especially FTTP) in pursuit of EU Digital Decade targets.

Fixed very high capacity networks (VHCN) covered 70% of EU homes in 2021, up from 60% in the previous year, largely due to FTTP deployments. Coverage of VHCNs, which are gigabit-capable FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1 / HFC or better networks, increased from 19.5% to 70% between 2014 and 2020, almost doubling in the last three years, thanks to the upgrade of cable networks to DOCSIS 3.1 and accelerated FTTP deployments. Malta is in the lead with 100% VHCN coverage, followed by Luxembourg, Denmark Spain, Latvia, the Netherlands and Portugal which all have coverage higher than 90%.

Although progress has been made in recent years, a ‘digital divide’ between rural and urban areas persists, with especially large differences when it comes to VHCNs. 8.5% of rural households are not covered by any fixed network, and 32.5% are not served by NGA technology. However, 4G is widely available in rural areas (99.6%) and rural FTTP coverage has grown considerably over the last decade (from 26% in 2010 to 34% in 2021). Minimising deployment costs, a predictable regulatory environment, and incentivising investment will play an important role in accelerating universal availability of gigabit connectivity and 5G mobile coverage.

The EU has approved € 16 bn RRF reforms and investments to roll out digital connectivity networks over the next four years, especially in rural regions. Moreover, the EU will also leverage connectivity investments through the new Cohesion Funds, the EAFRD, InvestEU and EIB loans, and CEF Digital, a programme directly managed by the European Commission’s HADEA Agency. This will grant € 2bn for high-performance connectivity infrastructures over a seven-year period years.

5G coverage grew substantially from 14% in 2020 to 66% of populated areas in 2021. The highest 5G coverage levels – all above 90%! - were recorded in Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Table 1 Connectivity indicators in DESI

 

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Source: DESI 2022, European Commission

 

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Source: Broadband Coverage in Europe 2021, a study by IHS Markit, Omdia and Point Topic for the European Commission           © 2022 IHS Markit, Omdia

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Source: Broadband Coverage in Europe 2021,  study by IHS Markit, Omdia and Point Topic for the European Commission           © 2022 IHS Markit, Omdia

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Source: Broadband Coverage in Europe 2021,  study by IHS Markit, Omdia and Point Topic for the European Commission           © 2022 IHS Markit, Omdia