The FTTH Council Europe, hoping to accelerate and expand the continent's adoption of ultra-broadband technologies that support digital infrastructure, cautioned European leaders about the dangers of lowering standards or investment.
In a letter submitted to telecom ministers gathering to discuss the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) at the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council Meeting this week, the FTTH Council Europe shared concerns of members, which include service providers, cable operators and vendors.
While FTTH Council Europe participants obviously have a vested interest in widespread European deployment of fiber, the non-profit organization expounded on the unarguable financial and competitive benefits the digital transformation will deliver. And without ubiquitous fiber, these benefits won't be available, the letter said.
"Fiber-based infrastructure is the only future-proof foundation enabling fixed and wireless Giga-networks (e.g. 5G)," wrote Ronan Kelly, president of FTTH Council Europe and CTO EMEA and APAC regions at ADTRAN. "It is also the enabler of a plethora of new, innovative technologies and services and the prerequisite for Europe’s global digital competitiveness and sustainability."
In a cost-modeling study conducted earlier this year, the organization estimated Europe must spend €137 billion (about $154 billion) between today and 2025 on fiber networks -- but the region lags other continents, especially the United States, which outspends Europe 3:1, Kelly wrote. (See What Is Europe's Real FTTH Price Tag?)
"We are concerned to see the continuous weakening of the investment incentives put at the heart of the original EECC proposal," he said on behalf of the organization. "FTTH networks can deploy quickly if appropriate policy and regulatory measures are in place that encourage both new and existing operators to invest in new network infrastructures."
In its most recent State of the Internet report, seven of the ten countries with the top speeds were in Europe -- including Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Latvia, Finland and Denmark. But widespread adoption of ultra-broadband remained low: Only 44.7% of Norwegians, for example, had speeds of more than 15 Mbit/s or higher and 34% of Finns could attain those speeds, the report found. (See US: We're on the Road to Gigabit.)
Likewise, it's critical for the EECC to aim high, abiding by its current definition of very high capacity, the letter said. In 2016, the EECC determined "all European households, rural or urban, should have access to connectivity offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps, which can be upgraded to Gbps," said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union, in his state of the union address last year.
Europe can attain digital transformation if it aims for high-speed ultra-broadband and incentivizes competition for investment by new and established network investors, Kelly added. New business models, such as wholesale only, along with decreased regulation also will accelerate deployment, he noted.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.