According to a report by Analysys Mason, Europe is evolving slowly and there is a difference in investment of EUR 65 billion per year. The regulatory context does not help either. Ian Watt: “We need a more conductive approach.” And in our country, the problem of network ownership is added.
Italy is in the unusual situation of having a private operator (Tim) compete against a state operator (Open Fiber, 50%-owned by Cdp). And this creates uncertainty about the future ownership of the network.” The issue of network ownership is specific to Italy, according to the results of the report titled “Full-fiber access as strategic infrastructure: strengthening public policy for Europe”, (here is the full report) commissioned by Huawei to Analysys Mason to take stock of the distribution of fiber networks in 30 European countries (EU-27, UK, Norway, Switzerland) and in particular to understand the challenges facing expanding network coverage in terms of regulatory and investment policies in part of Governments and companies.
The chapter dedicated to Italy – pages 63 and 64 of the document – after listing the stages that led to the presence of two main operators competing in the field of infrastructure – Tim and Open Fiber – highlights that at the end of 2019 FTTP (fiber to the premises) reached 27%, but network activation remains at 17%.
Beyond the Italian anomaly, the report highlights Europe’s lag – compared to the world’s most advanced countries – in terms of fiber network investments. And this despite the fact that about 90% of all Internet traffic in Europe is routed through fixed broadband networks and we are witnessing – especially after the advent of coronavirus – a growing need for Gigabit connectivity caused by the shift of several activities to online, from retail to work from home.
“Europe must move to a more managerial approach to meet the European Commission’s ambitious goals of launching high-capacity networks and achieving the Gigabit Society,” said Ian Watt, Lead Enterprise Consultant, Custom Research at Analysys Mason. “The research highlights the fact that many countries seem destined to fail to meet their targets and that Europe in general is lagging behind benchmarks in other parts of the world. The current crisis has highlighted the need for strong Internet connectivity. Savings will become even more dependent on the digital sphere. In Europe, the state’s involvement in the economy has risen sharply, with a focus on long-term solutions. Focusing on fiber as a strategic infrastructure is a good starting point.”
Regulatory and high cost obstacles remain in the way of implementing European ultrabroadband. On the one hand, there are new approaches, assisted by a government-guided policy, especially those that recognize the importance of fiber as a national infrastructure and reduce or remove barriers to implementation. On the other hand, according to Analysys Mason, sharing infrastructure is considered the best way, reducing costs and improving implementation speed. A “copper collection scheme” should also be considered.
“By promoting investment in 5G and fiber infrastructure, CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) Digital will contribute to Member States’ efforts to meet Gigabit 2025 targets. EF will also create synergies with other programs such as Invest EU and Digital Europe and will be complemented with European structural investment funds,” underlines Franco Accordino, Head of the Investment in High-Capacity Networks Unit of DG Connect EU. “There is currently an investment gap of EUR 65 billion per year to meet the EU’s strategic connectivity targets for 2025.”
Aurélie Bladocha Coelho, Director of Communications at the FTTH Council, points out that “as the only infrastructure of the future, which also saves energy, fiber is an essential part of the recovery of the European economy and the key to achieving the European Green Deal ambitions”.
The representative of the regulatory authority, Michel Van Bellinghen, elected as president of Berec for 2021, emphasizes that “the crisis has taught us that the importance of connectivity cannot be underestimated. Promoting full connectivity will guide our work in the coming years and Berec will guarantee harmonized application, developing the necessary guidelines.”