Europe Accelerates Broadband Ramp

Consumers and corporations in Europe’s largest economies — France, Germany, Italy, and the UK — want the latest high-tech gadgets, telecommunications, and productivity enhancement tools, but the infrastructure to support these services is often lacking.

European governments and businesses, disappointingly, have been slow to spend anything comparable to what counterparts in certain parts of Asia and North America have poured into telecommunications infrastructure that can support the proliferation of broadband technology.

As new technologies proliferate, especially in wireline and wireless services and industrial/manufacturing applications, consumers and corporations are yearning for a flood of new equipment that has been tested in other geographic locations but has yet to fully penetrate Europe.

Perhaps the most obvious instance is the relatively higher cost of broadband or high-speed Internet service in certain parts of Europe. According to research firm Point Topic, most leading European countries lag far behind in offering the best value for consumer broadband. The researchers rate Hong Kong in first place, followed by Japan and Romania; Germany is No. 9 and the United Kingdom No. 24.

While Britain is not a leader or one of the more cost-effective providers of broadband solutions, Point Topic found most Britons are eager to adopt the technology. Over two thirds of consumers, for instance, prefer to access the Internet on their laptops rather than via their desktops. A further 29 percent say they use their mobiles to access the Internet at home.

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, states that smartphone use by UK consumers has increased 70 percent, although broadband connection to mobile phones and landlines is trailing behind other countries. Consumers are only able to achieve maximum theoretical download speeds of 7.2Mbit/s.

Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom, acknowledged in a BBC news interview that the UK still has challenges on super-fast broadband takeup. “We are not where we want to be but plans are well underway [which] if they are fully met, will take us to a strong position,” Richards said.

The plans, which are now being discussed and reviewed, are expected to create new sales opportunities for high-tech companies. First, the UK government has unveiled a scaled-down plan to spend up to ₤530 million (US$841 million) to improve the country's broadband infrastructure over the next five years. This amounts to a pittance, however, warned Tim Johnson, chief analyst at Point Topic.

In France, Point Topic notes, the government is being a lot more aggressive. It plans to spend ₤570 million (US$904 million) per year through 2025 to achieve its broadband aim. Similar moves are underway in various European capitals, including some of the ones that have been identified as offering the slowest broadband services.

This can only mean more sales of equipment and components as well as consulting services by high-tech companies, including networking and data equipment vendors like {complink 9705|Alcatel-Lucent}, {complink 1131|Cisco Systems Inc.}, and {complink 2430|Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.} Component vendors to these companies should be firing up their engines, too. Is yours ready?

12 comments on “Europe Accelerates Broadband Ramp

  1. Ariella
    December 14, 2010

    The figures are interesting, Anna.  I would have actually expected a larger percentage of people saying they were interested on access on their mobile devices. A lot of experts in this field point to mobile devices as the wave of the present and future.  Are the European also using applications to identify location?  That is supposedly the hot area for marketing in the US now.

  2. AnalyzeThis
    December 14, 2010

    I agree that many areas of Europe are lagging behind on broadband, but what about Scandinavia?

    Sweden has had 4G for about a year, and according to this article has an average broadband speed of 5.7 Mbps: the U.S. is only at 3.9 Mbps. Sweden also has an IT ministry (!!) which has promised that 90% of all Swedish homes should have access to 100 Mbps connections by 2020. So I think they're doing well!

    In addition, if you look at the article above, Europe doesn't seem to be doing that bad: Romania, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, and Czech Republic are also in the top ten.

    So yes, while I do agree that France/Germany/Italy/UK may be a bit behind… other parts of Europe are actually ahead of the curve, and there's a good possibility that Sweden will have the best broadband infrastructure in the world 10 years from now.

  3. Mydesign
    December 15, 2010

         Yes Anna, you are right. When compare with any other countries especially with US, many part of European counties have a lesser density for the broadband connectivity. During my college days even getting a 128 Kbps speed is quiet high and expensive. Recently I happen to see an advertisement in one of the media that, some of the broadband companies are offering broadband with a speed of 32 and 64 Mbps on demand.  The best funny thing is that, the minimum speed offering by that particular company is 2 Mbps.

        But when it comes to data connectivity in Mobile, the maximum speed available is up to 7.2 Mbps either it is  3G or 4G. So we have to identify the bottle neck for further enhancement and to increase the speed. Now a day’s almost all mobile phones & communication gadgets are coming with a support up to 7.2 Mbps HSDPA data. So here also further developments are limited, because of the unavailability of spectrum.

  4. t.alex
    December 15, 2010

    Yep, due to speed limit of wireless network, I believe investment in super highspeed (based on optical fiber) broadband network is the way to go for the future. 

  5. SP
    December 16, 2010

    its interesting to know that european countries are lagging in broadband. may be thry have different priorities but in today's world its almost impossible to stay away from advancing your telecom needs.

  6. mfbertozzi
    December 17, 2010

    Scenario within countries mentioned by Anna is very different: in UK access network is whole in charge to only one player and all providers need to agree with him in terms of technology, planning and so on. In Italy there are on the ground several players, each one holds indipendently access, transport and core layer: any steps to ramp broadband requires full agreement among them and political wishes. At this stage there a critical point to cross: a huge part of public funds are focused on recovery plan to support financial crisis within Europe then push from that side is currently limited. Am I completely wrong on this analysis?

  7. SP
    December 17, 2010

    Hi mferptozzi, I als had this thought. European union has so many countries involved and many of them are pretty strong in their decision making. Definitely it would be difficult to come to a common understanding and roadmap.Everyone would decide what works well for their people and geography.

  8. Anna Young
    December 17, 2010

    Somebody has “Wikileaked” me! Soon after writing the article “Europe Accelerates Broadband Ramp,” my Internet access became spotty for one day and shut down completely for two extra days. I am just recovering from this now. This brought me to the conclusion that Europe needs not just faster and better broadband access, we also need competition and multiple sources for Internet access. I

    look forward to the day when Internet access becomes so easily available that companies market content and discard forcing customers to pay for the pipes. I mean, water companies charge for water not the pipes. Right?

  9. mfbertozzi
    December 19, 2010

    Well, each one gets his opinion, anyway CNNTech reported on December9th “cyber war” could be not really far. As consequence, security paradigm even for residential subscribers can be moved a lot toward new pattern then now and maybe Internet providers are going to change their offering in the sense driver won't the pipe but services related (i.e. managed security services) to possible avoid events such Anna mentioned to us. Furthermore, managed security services from providers in Europe are still an extra-fee to pay for residential users. What about in UK or US?


  10. mfbertozzi
    December 19, 2010

    Several discussions are in progress abroad, especially in Europe, for the fact broadand devolopment plans could potentially support in starting a recovery phase to fight current financial crisis.

    Checking deeply latest studies by most important advisors which are supporting Governments in the process it seems there si another side of the coin to take in consideration.

    Inside an european country G8member, the focus wasn't on rural zones but on people covered yet by XDSL or fiber. Following the results:

    -40% of them don't use Internet because are not interest in or are not aware of Internet potentiality
    -12% of them do shopping on line versus 37% as european average
    -4% of firms promote sales on lines versus 12% as european average

    Right now, is broadband the way on which leverage the recovery or in parallel Governments could evaluate also to support that path promoting seriously Internet usage?



  11. bolaji ojo
    December 20, 2010

    I believe security is also an important issue for Europeans and this may be another reason why many have not adopted the technology as well as we have seen in other parts of the world. I believe there are people in Germany, for instance, that have protested the idea of having their houses, streets and work places featured on Google map. I haven't heard of such protests in North America. Do you think Europeans have reasons to be wary in adopting this technology?

  12. mfbertozzi
    December 20, 2010

    In general, I think it is important to reach a sort of trade off and agreement with local culture in terms of services apps provider would like to provide and privacy to ensure.

    One week ago for example in Bucharest Google has launched street view service (as of today available for the biggest cities within the country), before doing that they full accomplished with local rules on privacy so few locations appear “grayed” on the map.

    This way, service is running and available and anyone is upset and in Europe it is a very common approach.

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