opinion


Connecting the unconnected across Europe

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Simon Čimžar, CTO of Business Unit Broadband at Iskratel, examines some best practice for connecting the unconnected.

Reliable broadband connectivity is fundamental to keep individuals, communities and businesses across Europe connected, with operators facing growing pressure to provide the best possible service. As data consumption demand continues to grow at an unparalleled rate, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are looking to provide ultrafast, low-latency and high-bandwidth broadband to their customer base. Many are turning to fiber to fulfil this urgent need. With a growth in the number of global Fiber-To-The Home (FTTH) deployments, it is clear that operators are realizing the value fiber can provide in helping them unlock new revenue streams and enhancing their customer offering.

Across Europe, most urban areas are covered by fiber networks, and national governments have placed renewed emphasis on connecting remote and rural areas in the coming years. The European Commission has subsequently produced ‘The Broadband Handbook’ for policy makers which includes examples of good practices which have been used to overcome the challenges of broadband deployment in rural and remote areas. Many have set ambitious targets to connect their communities and deliver connectivity directly to the consumers’ doorstep. As the ideal solution to connectivity woes, fiber is pulling ahead of the cable and copper-based alternatives in the market and ISPs are eager to harness this potential and migrate to a full-fiber solution offering in the future.

FTTH deployments continue to rise

Fiber technology has the ability to eradicate potential bottlenecks in the network to ensure optimum efficiency. The number of homes passed with FTTH and Fiber-To-The-Building (FTTB) has reached nearly 172 million homes which is a growth of 12 million since 2018 in Europe. Public incentives, such as the Common EU broadband targets for 2025, highlight the intention of governments to ensure all European households have access to networks with a download speed of at least 100 Mbps.

The role of local authorities and national governments has grown as they have outlined their intentions and strategic plans to bridge the digital divide and connect isolated, rural areas to ensure all consumers have access to the bandwidth and data speeds they desire. In the United Kingdom for example, the government wishes to attain nationwide coverage of full fiber networks by 2033 and in Germany, it has outlined its objective to expand fiber infrastructure in schools and local enterprises in each region of Germany. Fiber deployments will increase by securing available public funds by governments or engaging in partnerships and signing agreements with operators within the telecoms industry to facilitate this need. With public investment and subsides from government, it will help facilitate increased network deployments.

But operators across Europe face difficulty in connecting homes across rural environments, making the initial step of laying fiber particularly problematic. Due to the large distances between homes in isolated and remote areas, these are the more costly to connect. Due to the level of expenditure required, ISPs may be hesitant to address this situation. Additional hurdles of scaling up and deploying fiber at speed remains a challenge. To overcome this, ISPs may consider joining forces with a partner that has a wealth of experience in bringing fiber technology to the homes of end-users. This can play dividends and enable operators to meet the rising need for fast broadband connectivity in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Connecting Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, substantial progress has been made on increasing the number of FTTH and FTTB deployments and Russia is a key example of a country which has made significant strides. Russia is forecasted to have 49 million homes passed by 2020 which is more than 30 million more than the next-best countries, which is largely in part to the vast size of the country. More attention has been placed on improving the lives of EU citizens and businesses, and under the Europe 2020 strategy and the flagship initiative, Digital Agenda for Europe, it focuses on modern technologies in order to create jobs and promote economic prosperity.

One such partnership that is helping to connect rural regions across Europe is between Iskratel, a European provider of sustainable broadband access solutions and the Rural Network Project (RUNE), which is dedicated in providing rural areas across Slovenia and Croatia with ultra-fast broadband optical infrastructure to access speeds of more than 1 Gb/s. This is the first and currently only international project in the EU to connect territories of several Member States with broadband infrastructure. By partnering with Rune Enia in Slovenia and Rune Crow in Croatia, Iskratel will provide the active and passive telecommunications equipment for the construction of a broadband fiber optic network. The three-year project will see 233,000 households in 165 municipalities in Slovenia and 130,000 households in 45 municipalities across Croatia connected.

Partnership is key

As more and more fiber deployments are rolled out across Europe, it is evident that public incentives and government broadband plans are playing a crucial part and act as a key enabler of this noticeable growth. With this increase in fiber network roll-outs, consumers will be able to stream video content and access high-definition content seamlessly. One thing is certain, ISPs must take action and by enlisting the help of a partner with experience in the industry, they can roll-out fiber-optic networks at scale.

 

Simon Čimžar is the Technical Director of Iskratel’s Business Unit Broadband and is in charge of next-generation optical-access solutions. He has many years of experience with planning, development and implementation of solutions for the largest telecommunications companies. Simon’s vast experience spans across generations of access technologies – including CPE, CO equipment and end-to-end management – which gives him a broad view over the evolution of technology and operator business.


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