Lower costs may revive EU super broadband plans

The EU may after all go ahead with plans to give all households access to super-fast broadband by 2020, after a survey has found it had grossly over-estimated the cost.

The EU had budgeted €270 billion to deliver super-fast broadband to all, defined as 30Mb/s or more data downstream, but that was based on the assumption that it would require FTTH (Fiber To The Home) in most cases. Now, a survey by broadband research specialist Point Topic has suggested that advances in transmission technology over both coaxial cable and Telco copper mean that fiber can stop short of the home, slashing super-fast broadband costs to €80 billion total. Of that around two-thirds, or €52 billion, will be needed to hook up the areas of lowest population density, defined as having less than 100 people per square kilometer, with €22 billion for semi-urban areas with 100 to 600 people per square kilometer and €8 billion for urban areas with over 600 people per square kilometer.

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“Eighty billion euros is still a lot of money,” says Tim Johnson, lead author of the report, “but we think our figure is more accurate than earlier ones. It’s more realistic and should be more acceptable.”

It could revive the broadband plan which had appeared to be on hold after EU member governments had baulked at the cost, given the decline in many of their economies.

The survey recognized that super-fast broadband can be and is being delivered by cable TV networks using the Docsis 3 standard, and over telephone lines using VDSL, the high-speed version of DSL. Point Topic has also developed a new method for separating out areas of high and low cost for superfast rollout, which has led it to revise downwards the costs. This is chiefly because only 14 percent of European homes are in deeply rural areas with less than 100 people per square kilometer, rather than the 19 percent assumed in earlier estimates.