European Commission DESI report reveals broadband network status is lagging

European Union member states are still lagging behind most of the world when it comes to the deployment of 5G networks. That’s one of the findings in the latest Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), published by the European Commission. “Efforts need to be stepped up to ensure the full deployment of connectivity infrastructure (notably 5G) that is required for highly innovative services and applications,” the Commission wrote. DESI also found that businesses’ adoption of key digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence and “big data” analytics – remains worryingly low.

Mobile broadband is still mainly complementary to fixed broadband, when it comes to subscriptions for households. Europeans primarily use fixed technologies at home to access the internet (even if using a mobile device). In 2021, 13% of EU households accessed the internet only through mobile technologies.

->Finland (34% of households), Latvia (24%), Poland (23%), Romania (22%) and Bulgaria (21%) were the leaders in mobile-only access.

With respect to connectivity, Denmark has the highest score, followed by the Netherlands and Spain. Belgium and Estonia have the weakest performance on this dimension of the DESI.  Coverage of Next generation access (NGA) technologies (VDSL, VDSL2 vectoring, FTTP, DOCSIS 3.0, DOCSIS 3.1) capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps reached 90% in 2021, following a slight increase of 2.9 percentage points compared to the previous year. This mainly resulted from a 7-point growth in FTTP. VDSL coverage remained stable, while cable DOCSIS 3.0 declined slightly (by 0.8 percentage points).

Fixed very high capacity networks (VHCN) covered 70% of EU homes in 2021, up from 60% in the previous year. FTTP deployments were mainly responsible for this increase. Regarding mobile technologies, while 4G coverage of populated areas is almost universal, reaching 99.8%, 5G commercial services were launched in all but two Member States (Latvia and Portugal) by mid-2021. 5G coverage grew substantially from 14% in 2020 to 66% of populated areas in 2021.

The report further states:

“The connectivity dimension of the DESI looks at both the demand (take-up) and the supply side (coverage) of fixed and mobile broadband. Under fixed broadband, it assesses the take-up of overall, at least 100 Mbps and at least 1 Gbps broadband, the coverage of fast broadband (next generation access of at least 30 Mbps) and of fixed very high capacity networks (VHCNs) . Under mobile broadband, it includes the population coverage of 5G networks, the assignment of radio spectrum for 5G (5G spectrum indicator) as well as the take-up of mobile broadband6 . In addition, it captures the retail prices of fixed and mobile offers (price plans) and also those of converged bundles (consisting of fixed and mobile service components).

Broadband coverage of rural areas remains challenging, as 8.5% of households are not covered by any fixed network, and 32.5% are not served by any NGA technology. However, 4G is widely available also in rural areas (99.6%). On fixed technologies, there was a marked increase in the rural coverage of FTTP (from 26% in 2010 to 34% in 2021).

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