EU reaches 'broadband for all' target, but challenges remain

Latest data from the European Commission's digital scorecard reveals that the target of "broadband for all" in the European Union has effectively been achieved through a mix of mobile, fixed and satellite technologies including LTE.

Neelie Kroes - EC vice president

However, the Commission's vice president in charge of the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, warned that this does not mean the EU can now sit back and reflect on a job well done.

"We have solved the internet access problem. But the digital skills gap persists. Unless we all do more, we will face a digitally illiterate underclass in Europe," said Kroes.

The good news is that 100 per cent of Europeans now have access to broadband, either via fibre, cable, ADSL or 3G/LTE, with affordable access to satellite broadband as a minimum.

LTE availability, for example, has increased to an average of 59.1 per cent this year from just 26 per cent a year ago. According to IHS, which provided research for the Digital Agenda for Europe Scoreboard for 2013, Scandinavian countries, Germany, France, and the UK are among the 11 countries above this EU average.

In Sweden, 99.2 per cent of households are in areas covered by advanced LTE mobile broadband. In Germany, 81 per cent of households are covered, compared to 68 per cent in France, and 63 per cent in the UK.

LTE, or so-called 4G technology, has now been commercially launched in all but three Member States--Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Malta. HSPA, however, remains the leading mobile broadband technology, covering 97.1 per cent of EU households.

The bad news, however, is that coverage of rural areas in the EU remains very poor, with only 18 per cent having access to next-generation high-speed broadband, for example.

Nevertheless, IHS notes that improvements have been made here: "There was remarkable progress in fixed broadband coverage in rural areas over the past two years--from 79.9 per cent in 2011 to 89.8 per cent in 2013," the research company said.

The European Commission also noted that only 14 per cent of businesses with fewer than 250 employees are selling online, while eGovernment services were used by just 42 per cent of the EU population in 2013. The target for eGovernment services is 50 per cent by 2015.

For more:
- see this release from IHS
- see this release from the European Commission

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