China has unveiled ambitious plans to supply broadband to nearly all citizens by 2020, just a week after European Commissioner Neelie Kroes warned the region is falling behind in broadband deployment.
The Chinese government plans to spend 2 trillion yuan (€241 billion) on the broadband deployment, to boost availability from the roughly 45% of its 1.35 billion people that currently have fixed web access. It is also targeting increases of 25 million copper, and 35 million fiber users in 2013, Reuters reports, citing a Chinese-language interview with vice ICT minister Shang Bing.
China’s plan may help the European Commission push through proposed new rules for the communications market, unveiled last week, which aim to spur investment in next generation networks. Kroes, vice president of the EC’s Digital Agenda, warned Europe is already behind countries including Japan, South Korea and the US in terms of fiber and 4G rollouts, and risks falling behind if clear rules aren’t established that gives companies the confidence to fund rollouts.
Analysts were skeptical on where the investment in 4G will come from, noting an EC push to abolish mobile roaming rates will hit operators’ revenue, and so their appetite for a heavy LTE outlay.
China, meanwhile, has made broadband an inherent part of its 12th five-year plan, announcing the Broadband China strategy in 2011 in an attempt to improve penetration and internet speeds.
Last month, the country outlined its targets for the strategy including for the first time a planned implementation timetable. These targets include expanding fixed broadband coverage to half of Chinese households by 2015, and improving average broadband speeds to 20Mbps for urban areas and 4Mbps in rural areas by this time.
Targeted average speeds will increase to 50Mbps in cities and 12Mbps in rural areas by 2020, by which time the ministry is aiming for nationwide broadband coverage.