European high speed broadband: far from Asia
High speed broadband penetration in Western Europe is finally taking off thanks to an EU push for infrastructure investment. As part of the EU's 2020 programme, the availability of funding programmes for EU rural development and structural investment are designed to encourage the building of high-speed broadband infrastructure.
The European Commission’s Digital Agenda has previously outlined measures which aim to ensure every European citizen has the opportunity to access basic broadband (a target reached in 2013) and high-speed broadband by 2020 (30 Mbps or higher). More recently, the European Commission has announced a new cooperation between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Commission, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to aid broadband infrastructure financing.
In Western Europe, established telecoms operators and newer operators are currently upgrading their older copper networks to fibre or high-speed DSL services. In March 2016 French incumbent Orange pledged increased investments in fibre optic broadband and LTE. In Greece, telecommunication companies Vodafone and Wind recently announced an agreement to cooperate in planning and operating a next-generation network. Even Italy which has been slow in terms of high speed broadband rollout, is now implementing the ‘Italian strategy for Ultra-Broadband (approved in 2015)’ which aims to adopt and implement measures for facilitating and extending the high speed broadband in the Italian territory.
Amongst the EU big 5, Spain has the greatest number of fibre to the premises (FTTP) subscriptions, with a fibre share of connections of 17%. But even Spain's success in rolling out fibre pales in comparison with Asian markets like South Korea or Japan where fibre has surpassed 50% market share. FTTP presence across the wider Western European market is still lower at 7.3% in 2015, compared to Asia Pacific's 53.9%. The introduction of the new EU measures and initiatives will help Europe to catch up with Asia, but there is still a long way to go.