How Europe Can Hit Its Next-Gen Broadband Targets

8:20 AM -- It's hard to find anyone in Europe that doesn't want widespread high-speed broadband access to as many homes and businesses in the region as possible, and while the European Commission 's targets for 2020 are ambitious (universal access of at least 30 Mbit/s downstream), everyone hopes they can be met. (See Europe's Broadband Challenge.)

The region is already generally well served with basic broadband and many homes already have access to downstream broadband connections that meet the EC's goals. According to a recent study compiled for the EC by Point Topic Ltd. , "the European Union already has [at the end of 2011] standard broadband available for the great majority of EU homes, 95.7 percent, over 200 million altogether. It is also now half-way towards the goal of 30Mbps access for all by 2020. Over 50% of EU homes -- 105 million -- already had NGA [next generation access] broadband available to them."

That's good going, but getting NGA broadband to the remaining 100 million-plus homes and businesses will be tougher.

So it'll be interesting to see if there's enough collective will to act on a set of measures identified by Analysys Mason and published in a new report commissioned by the EC.

The EC notes in a press release that it is aware of "the challenges faced by those rolling out high-speed broadband infrastructure, including the sometimes prohibitive costs and the planning and procedural issues associated with major civil works projects." With that in mind, Analysys Mason interviewed regulators and broadband "stakeholders" (companies involved in the development, rollout, provision and so on of broadband networks and services) and identified "five potential measures that could be taken to reduce costs and administrative burdens." Those five are:

  • a centralized atlas of passive infrastructure

  • mandated access to passive infrastructure

  • a one-stop-shop for rights of way and administrative procedures

  • a database in which all planned civil works must be published

  • an obligation to equip all new buildings with high-speed (100Mbit/s) Internet access, as well as mandated open access to the terminating segment.

Clearly, that would all help. As the Analysys Mason team notes, "while all of these individual measures would most likely have positive results on coverage, some -- such as the obligation to equip new buildings with high-speed infrastructure -- could be relatively simple for each Member State to introduce, while others -- such as a centralised atlas of passive infrastructure -- could be expensive and difficult to implement. However, many of these measures are interlinked, and could be implemented together, thus reducing costs, with the resulting initiative having a positive impact on those rolling out new infrastructure."

So far, so good. The big question is -- will any of it, even the "relatively simple" measures, ever see the light of day?

That's up to the joint efforts of the EC, national regulators, national and local government decision-makers and the network operators. And when you look at it like that, the odds of a positive outcome look slim.

The full report can be accessed here. Check it out.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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