The Broadband Coverage in Europe 2016 study from IHS Markit found that at the end of June 2016, more than three-quarters of EU homes have access to high-speed broadband services and 4G LTE coverage was nearly ubiquitous with 96 per cent of EU households covered by 4G LTE networks.
This is the fourth edition of the study delivered by IHS Markit to the EC in partnership with Point Topic, providing data and analysis on availability of broadband services by various technologies in 31 countries across Europe (EU28, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland).
“Availability of 4G LTE services has become near-universal in many study countries,” said Alzbeta Fellenbaum, principal analyst at IHS Markit and manager of the project. “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 4G LTE services were available to only 59.1 per cent of EU homes.”
Copper upgrades continue to be key for high-speed broadband growth in Europe
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 fibre optic networks all the way to customers’ property.
“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,” Fellenbaum said. “For instance, VDSL coverage in Italy more than doubled during the twelve-month period to mid-2016, as coverage increased by 33.6 per centage points. Iceland, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia also witnessed double-digit growth in VDSL coverage during the twelve-month period to mid-2016.”
Portugal breaks Baltic leadership in super-fast FTTP broadband availability for the first time
Availability of fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) services in Portugal improved by 10.7 per centage points during the twelve-month period to mid-2016 and as a consequence of this growth, Portugal with 86.1 per cent of home passed by FTTP networks has now surpassed Latvia (85.2 per cent) and Lithuania (81.4 per cent) to rank first in terms of FTTP coverage among all study countries.
However, big differences remain among European countries in terms of FTTP availability and while FTTP access is on offer in all study countries, in some of the countries FTTP services are available only on a very limited basis.
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 only slightly higher at 1.8 per cent. “This reflects the preference of operators in these countries to prioritise their deployment strategies on upgrading existing VDSL networks, rather than investing in the typically more expensive FTTP technology,” Fellenbaum reiterated.
Gap in rural broadband coverage shrinking
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 had access to at least one fixed broadband technology. However, only 39.2 per cent (12 million rural households) could benefit from NGA broadband.
Nevertheless, rural NGA coverage increased by 9.5 per centage points by mid-2016 and in total, 2.9 million additional rural households gained access to next generation broadband services between the end of June 2015 and 2016.
“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,” Fellenbaum said.