Robert Kneschke -

FTTH Council Europe calls on policymakers for measures to reap full-fibre rewards

Industry organisation with a mission to advance ubiquitous full-fibre connectivity across Europe welcomes publication of the European Commission’s latest ‘Digital economy and society index’ and calls for demand-side measures to boost take-up of fibre networks

The FTTH Council Europe, a regional trade body with a mission to advance ubiquitous full-fibre-based connectivity across all nations of the continent, has issued a call to European policymakers to consider changing relevant public policies away from technology neutrality to a principle that is clearly full-fibre positive.

The background to the call is the publication of the European Commission’s 2021 Digital economy and society index (DESI), which tracks the progress made by EU member states in digital competitiveness in the areas of human capital, broadband connectivity and the integration of digital technologies by businesses and digital public services.

Principally, the FTTH Council Europe welcomes the news that the 2021 DESI has been adjusted to reflect major policy initiatives, including the 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the digital decade, in which the European Commission (EC) sets out its vision and targets for a successful digital transformation of Europe by 2030. This, said the FTTH Council Europe, was a significant step towards consistency as, if realised, it will make results more comparable over the years and improve the accuracy of the figures.

On connectivity, the European Commission highlighted an improvement in very high-capacity networks (VHCN), which are now available in 59% of households in the EU, up from 50% a year ago. The data is also consistent with the acceleration of the market foreseen by the council’s market forecasts for 2021-2026, which report that full-fibre broadband is expected to be available to 80% of European households within five years.

Yet such positive trends should not, warned the FTTH Council Europe, overshadow the fact that the connectivity issue is now transferring to the users’ perspective. It noted that with around 45% take-up today, policymakers need to consider some measures to maximise the potential from full-fibre investments.

First, it said plans for the retirement of copper were essential as copper switch-off would also play a major role in the uptake of VHCN and full-fibre in particular. This transition needs to be prepared so that no citizen or business is left behind.

Second, it said the digitisation of public services was crucial as recognised by the European Commission’s four cardinal points. Combined with demand-side measures such as vouchers, it could be a strong incentive for citizens to take up full-fibre services.

With a nod to a greener digital future, the FTTH Council Europe observed that fulfilling the objectives of the twin (green and digital) transitions was also likely to have an impact on full-fibre take-up. It said fibre was the most future-proof and energy-efficient technology, and was key to aligning the digital and sustainability agendas.

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