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IP/08/1831

Brussels, 28 November 2008

Broadband: Gap between best and worst performing countries in Europe narrowing

Broadband penetration in Europe continues to grow, from 18.2% in July 2007 to up to 21.7% in July 2008, according to a report published today by the European Commission. The report also shows the gap between EU countries narrowing, from 28.4 percentage points in July 2007 to 27.7 this July. With 17 million fixed broadband lines laid in a year, today's figures show high-speed internet in the EU is more widespread and faster, while mobile broadband is starting to take off, with 6.9% penetration. Three quarters of broadband lines in the EU have download speeds of 2 millions of bits per second (Mbps) and above, a speed that supports TV over the Internet, for example.

"Broadband growth remains strong, with the top EU countries firmly remaining world leaders in broadband penetration," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am also glad that other countries in Europe are catching up. Under the European Economic Recovery Plan presented by the Commission this week, we plan to channel a further € 1 billion of EU funding into High-speed Internet infrastructures. I expect that this additional measure, together with a strong policy emphasis on effective competition and further market opening, will pave the way for 'Broadband for all Europeans' by 2010; and for 'High-speed Internet for all Europeans' by 2015."

New figures published by the European Commission today show that, in spite of reduced growth perspectives for the economy at large, broadband growth has continued in the last year throughout the EU, with an increase of 19.23% between July 2008 and July 2007. On 1 July 2008 there were over 107 million fixed broadband lines in the EU, of which 17 million lines have been added since July 2007. The rate of growth was highest in Malta (6.7 lines per 100 inhabitants), Germany (5.1 per 100 inhabitants) and Cyprus (4.9 per 100 inhabitants) and lowest in Finland (1.9 per 100 inhabitants) and Portugal (1.0 per 100 inhabitants).

Globally, Denmark and the Netherlands continue to be world leaders in broadband, with penetration over 35%. Nine EU countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Germany) are above the United States which stands at 25% according to OECD June 2008 statistics.

The gap between the strongest (Denmark 37.2%) and weakest broadband performers (Bulgaria 9.5%) remains significant but is decreasing for the first time (penetration in Denmark was 34.1% in July 2007 while in Bulgaria it was 5.7%). The gap can mainly be explained by lack of competition and regulatory weaknesses. For example, while the market share for incumbent fixed broadband operators is beginning to stabilise at around 45%, in some countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania and Spain) it has increased since July 2007. These main obstacles to broadband growth remain to be addressed through the reform of the EU's telecoms rules, which is currently under discussion by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (MEMO/08/739).

The Commission also published the first figures showing fixed broadband speeds, which is an important indicator in a knowledge-based society. 74.8% of reported lines in the EU are in the range of 2 Mbps and above: 62% between 2 and 10 Mbps, 12.8% above 10 Mbps. Greater data transmission speeds generally provide customers with more and better choice at a lower price per megabit. Extremely fast connections (up to 100 Mbps or beyond) such as fibre only cover 1.4% of European internet subscribers.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is the EU's main broadband technology, with nearly 86 million lines. However, DSL growth continues to decrease rapidly, slowed by 10.9% compared to July 2007, to the benefit of other fixed broadband technologies like cable, fibre to the home (FTTH) and wireless local loops.

As an illustration of growing infrastructure-based competition, unbundled local loop based products continue to grow at a high rate, largely as a result of successful regulation in the past couple of years. 65.3% of all alternative operators' DSL lines (24.7 million lines) are either fully or partially unbundled, compared to 45.4% in July 2007. This is at the expense of important types of wholesale access for alternative operators, whose share of bitstream access (5.9 million lines) and resale (6.9 million lines) continues to fall.

Other figures published for the first time show that broadband based on mobile technologies such as 3G and data services via data cards seems to be taking off in a number of Member States. Denmark, Greece, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Spain have reported a mobile broadband penetration rate above 10%. There were 34 million mobile broadband subscribers in the EU on 1 July 2008 (not including France, the Netherlands and the UK who have not provided information on this). The mobile penetration rate, which measures the proportion of the total population actively using mobile broadband, ranges from less than 1% (Belgium and Cyprus) to nearly 20% (Spain). The EU average is 6.9%. The number of mobile broadband connections using only dedicated data cards/modems/keys, typically allowing mobile internet via laptops, is significantly lower (around 2 to 3%).

Background:

The availability of broadband is a key indicator of the development of information and communication technologies. The Commission twice a year reports on the development of broadband markets in the EU with data validated by Member States. The European Economic Recovery Plan presented by the Commission this week (IP/08/1771, MEMO/08/735) proposes to mobilise new EU funding for 2009/2010 to achieve "High-speed Internet for all" in Europe.

The report is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/doc/implementation_enforcement/broadband_access/Broadband_data_july_08.pdf

Annex

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

DK penetration has been corrected after deadline for submission of data. Actual DK penetration is lower and stands at 37.2%.

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]


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