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68% of EU homes have high-speed broadband

Research conducted by IHS and Valdani, Vicari & Associati on the availability of broadband services across all European Union member states has been published by the European Commission (EC).

For a second year running, IHS Technology provided the EC with data on availability of broadband services by various technologies in all European Union Member States. The EC’s Digital Agenda Scoreboard shows a dramatic improvement in 4G LTE coverage and high-speed broadband availability.

Key findings:

  • At the end of 2014, 4G LTE mobile broadband was available to nearly 8 in 10 (79.4 per cent) of EU households, a 20 per centage point increase compared to 2013 and the fastest growing of the followed technologies.
  • Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband coverage reached 68.1 per cent of EU homes, making high-speed (at least 30 Mbps) broadband services available to 15.5 million households more than in 2013.
  • Fixed broadband coverage remained the same as in 2013 at 97 per cent, pointing to slowing trajectory as Member States rather focus on NGA and mobile technologies.
  • At 89.6 per cent, rural fixed broadband coverage also stayed at its 2013 level, but availability of NGA technologies in rural areas increased from 18.1 per cent in 2013 to 25.1 per cent of rural homes passed by high-speed networks in 2014.

“Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden lead the European Union, with 99 per cent of households covered by LTE,” said Alzbeta Fellenbaum, senior analyst at IHS Technology. “Other countries with outstanding performance in LTE coverage also include the Czech Republic and Malta, which saw an increase in coverage from 12 per cent to 91.9 per cent and from no coverage to 67 per cent, respectively.”

Data confirms preference for upgrading existing copper networks

The growth in overall NGA coverage can be primarily attributed to an increase in very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL) coverage, which grew by over seven per centage points in the year, reaching 37.6 per cent of EU households by the end of 2014.

The fact that VDSL continues to be the fastest-growing NGA technology further solidifies the shift observed in 2013, with companies in many study countries refocusing their broadband deployment strategies towards upgrading existing copper networks rather than investing in the typically more costly (although generally longer-lived) deployment of fibre optic all the way to consumers’ homes.

“VDSL coverage grew significantly in a number of markets,” Fellenbaum said. “Most significant increases were recorded in Denmark, Austria, and Iceland, all reporting increases in VDSL coverage exceeding 30 per centage points.”

Super-fast FTTP broadband numbers up

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) coverage — providing super-fast broadband connections — also increased, with services available to 18.7 per cent of European households. Baltic countries traditionally lead in availability of FTTP services. In 2014 Lithuania and Latvia remained the two countries with the highest FTTP coverage, with homes passed by FTTP reaching nearly 95 per cent of households in Lithuania and 83.2 per cent of households in Latvia.

However, the strongest growth in FTTP coverage compared to 2013 was recorded in Portugal and Spain, where FTTP coverage increased by 16.1 and 22.1 per centage points respectively, reaching 65.8 per cent of Portuguese and 44.8 per cent of Spanish homes.

“It is worth pointing out that in Portugal and Spain, network operators in recent years introduced a new strategic model based on network sharing and cooperation on joint roll-out of FTTP networks,” Fellenbaum said.

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