High-speed broadband reaches 75% of European homes, according to EC study

James Pearce
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European Commission broadband report found 12.8 million new households gained access to speeds over 30Mbps in 2016

High-speed broadband is available in three quarters of European homes, according to a report by the European Commission, but very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL) technology continued to drive next generation access network deployments.

The study, which was carried out by IHS Markit and Point Topic on behalf of the EC, found that in the 12 months to the end of June 2016, 12.8 million new EU households gained access to broadband of speeds over 30Mbps delivered by NGA networks.

Overall, the collected data show that over 218 million EU households (99.9%) had access to at least one of the main fixed or mobile broadband access technologies in mid-2016. This represents a 0.1 percentage point increase, or 1.4 million additional households, compared to the end of June 2015

VDSL played a key role in the growth of NGA networks across the EU, reaching 48.2% of homes, a 7.1% increase. 

“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,” said Alzbeta Fellenbaum, principal analyst at IHS Markit and manager of the project. 

“For instance, VDSL coverage in Italy more than doubled during the twelve-month period to mid-2016, as coverage increased by 33.6 percentage points. Iceland, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia also witnessed double-digit growth in VDSL coverage during the twelve-month period to mid-2016.”

LTE has become “near universal” across many European markets, the report found. In 11 countries, LTE coverage reaches 99% of households, while overall reaches 96% of the EU population.

All but three countries had LTE coverage above 80% - Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria – but it is also worth to note that in a number of countries, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and the UK, LTE coverage reached higher levels than that of HSPA networks.

The figures were less kind, however, when considering rural coverage. Broadband coverage levels in rural regions remain notably lower than total national coverage, with fixed broadband networks passing 92.6% of rural EU households compared to 97.5% of total households. 

Technologies such as fibre, which covers 23.7% of households overall (up from 20.3% in 2015) are very low in rural areas – just 8.8%. LTE covers just 79.7% of rural households.

Malta is leading with next generation access, reporting complete coverage for the category, while Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland and Portugal all reported levels above 95%. Greece was ranked lowest with below 50% coverage.

Portugal was ranked highest for fibre-to-the-x coverage, at 85% of households, while the UK, Belarus and Greece were all below 5%.