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Spain mulls public funding for 5G backhaul

Spain has opened a consultation into the planned award of up to €250 million in funding for 5G fibre backhaul as part of its broader 5G coverage strategy.

The country is striving for coverage of 75% of the population by 2025 and as such is taking advantage of EU funding to assist with investment in infrastructure.

The 5G fibre backhaul project forms part of its UNICO – Universalización de Infraestructuras Digitales para la Cohesión, or Universalization of Digital Infrastructures for Cohesion – programme, through which it aims to bring about universal access to ultra-fast broadband and extend the reach of 5G mobile. UNICO comes under the country’s broader post-Covid economic recovery plan.

This latest arm of the UNICO programme covers the provision of aid for the deployment of fibre for backhauling 5G mobile sites. One of the key objectives of the consultation phase is to map out locations of mobile networks without fibre backhaul in municipalities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. The information gleaned will then be used to determine which areas of the country will be eligible to be part of of the funding programme. Essentially, the government is keen to see fibre backhaul deployed in small locations that might otherwise fail to meet operators’ criteria for investment.

And it is letting the operators – as well as other interested parties, like public administrations and the competition regulator CNMC, for example – have their say in the setting of parameters. Such parties have until 18 July to share their thoughts.

Spain seems to be moving quite quickly on its various telecoms-related recovery schemes. Earlier this month it set out the conditions for a €150 million funding project for passive infrastructure related to 5G, hoping to draw in towers companies and telcos with towers to help boost national 5G coverage. In that part of the project, interested parties have until late July to file their submissions for a share of the funding for sites that must be built by the end of 2024…although there is the possibility for a six-month extension.

As yet, the backhaul plan does not have a firm timeline, aside from the deadline for the submission of comments on the consultation, but given Spain’s 2025 goal for 5G coverage, it’s safe to assume that the government will not drag its heels on this one.

Spain is something of a leader when it comes to fibre, with the big operators having made considerable effort to roll out the technology in recent years. Spain ranks second in the FTTH Council’s Europe’s table of FTTH/B homes passed for both the EU39 and EU27+UK, although it’s worth noting that the firm has removed Russia from the former, a move that affected Spain’s position. 88.8% of homes in Spain are passed with fibre, according to the Council.

That puts the country in a strong position to both identify base station sites that lack fibre backhaul and to rectify that… and of course to boost 5G coverage, which is its ultimate goal.

 

 

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