EC’s super-fast broadband estimates challenged

Providing super-fast broadband to the whole of the European Union could be much less expensive than previously thought, according to UK research firm Point Topic, which estimates that the whole economic area could be served for €80bn – less than a third of the €270bn estimated by the European Commission in its Digital Agenda.

Defined as delivering at least 30Mbps of data downstream, super-fast broadband services have long been championed by EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has taken on the mission of ensuring that all EU households can access these speeds by 2020.

However, both operators and national governments have balked at the cost, so it will come as welcome news to many that the cost may be much lower.

The main reason for Point Topic’s reduced estimate is that super-fast networks have already covered about half of European homes, using a variety of technologies in addition to expensive fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), such as cable and copper-based VDSL, which Point Topic has used as the main connection method in urban areas in its models.

Of the €80bn total, around two-thirds (or €52bn) will be needed to hook up the areas of lowest population density, defined as having less than 100 people per square kilometre.

Tim Johnson, lead author of the report, said: “Most of that amount will have to be funded by the taxpayer in one way or another,” says Johnson, “and we think that’s about as much as they will stand for. But we think that a large proportion of rural Europe will get wired up on that basis.”

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