Digital Agenda biased toward FTTC asserts FTTH Council Europe

July 19, 2013
While the latest Digital Agenda Scoreboard released this past June 12 shows that Europe is making progress toward the European Commission’s broadband access goals, many countries on the continent are using the wrong approach, says the FTTH Council Europe. The reliance in several areas on upgraded copper-based networks, typically fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) architectures, limits Europe’s long-term broadband growth prospects, the Council believes. Worse, the way the Digital Agenda defines next-generation access (NGA) encourages this mistake, council spokespeople assert.

While the latest Digital Agenda Scoreboard released this past June 12 shows that Europe is making progress toward the European Commission’s broadband access goals, many countries on the continent are using the wrong approach, says the FTTH Council Europe. The reliance in several areas on upgraded copper-based networks, typically fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) architectures, limits Europe’s long-term broadband growth prospects, the Council believes. Worse, the way the Digital Agenda defines next-generation access (NGA) encourages this mistake, council spokespeople assert.

“European policy makes no distinction between the regulatory regime for low-cost copper upgrades and more expensive but future-proof fiber to the home investments,” states Hartwig Tauber, director general of the FTTH Council Europe. “The result is that regulatory policies effectively promote copper upgrades. Prioritizing copper upgrades and making the pricing regime for copper a central element of the Single Market reforms shows a lack of vision that does not augur well for Europe.”

The fact that the Digital Agenda goals do not take into account what might be required after the European Commission’s 2020 target dates, the European policy effectively encourages carriers to adopt FTTC because it is the cheapest and most expedient approach, the council appears to imply. Thus, these policies aren’t technologically neutral in practice and encourage the use of technologies that the council describes in a press release as “not future-proof or already outdated.”

Therefore, the Commission should be working to make it easier for carriers to afford the expense of fiber to the home if they really want a level technological playing field, the council believes. “We need a greater emphasis on future-proof fiber networks and need to facilitate new models of financing,” Tauber says by way of example.

Such new financing models are essential because the FTTH Council Europe estimates it would take €200 billion to deploy FTTH across the EU and meet the Digital Agenda’s targets. These goals include ensuring that half of European Union households subscribe to broadband services that support download speeds of more than 100 Mbps.

Raising the €200 billion would require investments from outside the telecom sector, paired with what the council referred to in the press release as “major regulatory reform.” Yet the European Commission has yet to forward such proposals, the FTTH Council states.

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