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All Member States of the European Union must provide universal coverage of broadband services with speeds of 30Mbit/s or greater, and ensure that 50% of citizens subscribe to 100Mbit/s or faster services by 2020, according to Analysys Mason study.

fiber cabinet

In order to meet both of these digital agenda targets, investment in new higher-speed broadband infrastructure is likely to be required in many Member States. The EC is aware of the challenges faced by those rolling out high-speed broadband infrastructure. The analyst firm’s study suggests five potential measures that could be taken to reduce costs and administrative burdens:

  •  a centralised atlas of passive infrastructure
  • mandated access to passive infrastructure
  • a one-stop-shop for rights of way and administrative procedures
  • a database in which all planned civil works must be published
  • an obligation to equip all new buildings with high-speed (100Mbit/s) Internet access, as well as mandated open access to the terminating segment.

A key finding from the study was that while all of these individual measures would most likely have positive results on coverage, some – such as the obligation to equip new buildings with high-speed infrastructure – could be relatively simple for each Member State to introduce, while others – such as a centralised atlas of passive infrastructure – could be expensive and difficult to implement. However, many of these measures are interlinked, and could be implemented together, thus reducing costs, with the resulting initiative having a positive impact on those rolling out new infrastructure.

“It is widely accepted that civil works such as digging trenches account for up to 80% of broadband deployment costs. By implementing measures that aim to reduce the amount of civil works required, e.g. by encouraging the sharing of existing passive infrastructure, it is likely that the overall cost of deploying new networks can be reduced,” explains Matt Yardley, Analysys Mason partner. Fibre optics is regarded as the ultimate broadband solution for the future, since optical performance is only restricted by the modulation technique used. As advances in optical multiplexing occur, capacity is able to increase using existing fibre infrastructure.


In addition, fibre transmission offers the lowest latency of any transmission media, so why given that we are already a quarter way through the 21st century, do we discover many areas throughout Europe without the infrastructure in place to support faster broadband speeds. The answer doesn't necessarily involve cost. Fibre optics cabling is much cheaper than their copper counterparts to produce and doesn’t degrade over time as legacy cabling does. Moreover, the main reason is historical. Many of the administrative councils who oversee much of the historical landmark cities simply don’t want to see the scars of trenching work littering their historical cities, and causing further damage to already delicate century old buildings.

Additional issues lie with the ownership of fibre infrastructure. In many cities around the world, it is not uncommon for different service providers to dig up the same street on three or more occasions to run competing fibre infrastructure into the same building. In progressive European cities such as the Netherlands, fibre infrastructure is owned by a non discriminating wholesaler and competing service providers are able to deploy competing services over a shared fibre infrastructure, avoiding the need for additional street works. However, in other countries non-ownership of the infrastructure is seen as a disadvantage.

While the ROI of deploying high speed optical cabling in densely populated urban areas is straightforward, Producing a business plan for rural locations using the same methodology is difficult. Operators must either share the cost of cable infrastructure deployment or look at alternative wireless backhaul solutions.  

By Angela Sutherland

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