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New report explores Gigabit Society

Report applauds policy-makers who are being technology-neutral


An independent report has concluded that the European Commission’s vision of a Gigabit Society by 2025 will require investors in broadband networks to deploy a range of technologies when connecting homes and businesses to ultra-fast broadband. These include G.Fast, fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP), DOCSIS and 5G.


The report was carried out by the media and telecoms consultancy, Communications Chambers and commissioned by Liberty Global, the world’s largest international TV and broadband company.


The report explores the fastest and most cost-effective ways of attaining the European Commission’s goals for access to high-speed broadband by 2025.


The Commission has set targets of one Gbps for socio-economic drivers, such as schools, hospitals and large businesses, and a minimum speed of 100 Mbps for all households, which would also be upgradeable to deliver speeds of one gigabit and faster - referred to in the Communications Chambers report as ‘Gigabit speeds’.


The report argues that a range of technologies currently considered “very high capacity” (VHC) by the Commission such as G.Fast close to the end user, fibre-to-the-building or premise, DOCSIS and fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) are all capable of meeting the 2025 targets.


It also adds that in the case of VHC networks based on DOCSIS, Gigabit speeds could be achieved as early as the end of 2017, eight years ahead of schedule and at a lower cost than FTTP.


The report applauds policy-makers who are being technology-neutral, and warns that an over-prescriptive policy of focussing solely on FTTP risks jeopardising investment, saying: “The wrong intervention could be wasteful, or even damaging. For example, support for an expensive and slow-to-deploy technology could drive up prices and paralyse investment in other technologies which might have delivered improved performance more quickly.”


It cites the example of Australia, which found that its broadband became worse after a government push on fibre-to-the-home. Similarly, it says: “Korea and Japan’s substantial government interventions to support FTTP have also been disappointing. Both countries have performed relatively poorly in their use of socially or economically-valuable internet applications, such as e-government and e-health, despite their superior (and expensive) infrastructure.”


The report is being launched alongside a new initiative by Liberty Global, called GIGAWorld, which outlines Liberty Global’s plans to bring Gigabit internet speeds to the 12 European countries in which it operates.


Around 50 million homes in Europe already have access to Liberty Global’s fibre-based “GIGAReady” networks. Liberty Global expects that millions more will be connected over the coming years.


Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s CEO, said: “Our scale, commitment and ambitious plans to invest in the infrastructure of our age make us perfect partners to deliver the EU’s vision of a Gigabit Society. Today our fibre-rich networks can connect 50 million GIGAready homes and we are currently expanding to millions more over the next few years, helping accelerate the digital revolution in Europe.”


Robert Kenny, founder, Communications Chambers and co-author of the report, added: “Thanks to investment already under way by cable operators, gigabit broadband will be available to roughly half the premises in Europe by 2018 - far ahead of the Commission’s target of 2025. This will allow the Commission (and member states) to focus elsewhere, where interventions are necessary."


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