Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Broadband Technologies

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A broad range of communications technologies which differ in their technical capacities are capable of transmitting high-speed Internet to households.
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Wired Broadband Technologies

A large range of communication technologies with different technical capacities are capable of providing high-speed internet to households. Wired technologies include copper cable (xDSL), coaxial cable (e.g. HFC) and modern optical fibre cable (Fttx).

The term DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) refers to broadband connections that use the existing copper telephone lines. The variations of DSL differ primarily in the rate used to transmit the data. Typical for most DSL connections are the different speeds when sending (upload) and receiving (download) data.

The classical cable connection would be the two wires of a telephone line (‘twisted pair’), most prone to disturbance effects such as interferences. Broadband internet via coaxial cable is usually offered to customers via the existing cable TV network. The coaxial cable consists of a copper core and a copper-shielding coat. The TV cable networks are therefore much more efficient than the traditional telephone networks.

Optical fibre can transmit signals faster and with lower losses compared to copper cables. With up to 40 gigabits per second, the data transfer via optical fibre cables is insensitive to electromagnetic interference and also provides a higher protection against eavesdropping than other cable networks.

Wireless Broadband Technologies

Wireless broadband technologies include mobile radio solutions (e.g. HSPA, LTE), fixed radio solutions (e.g. WiMAX) and satellite solutions.

With smart devices and mobile computers as drivers for an explosive growth of data traffic, mobile and fixed radio solutions provide mobile ultra-broadband internet access capable of transmitting up to 5 Gbps.

Internet-by-satellite, also referred to as satellite broadband, is a high-speed bi-directional Internet connection made via communication satellites instead of a telephone landline or other terrestrials means. Today satellite broadband is mostly comparable with the xDSL technology in terms of costs and performance. Whilst fibre and cable offer higher speed performance they are not available to all users as satellite is today due to their extensive costs.

  • Find out more about the capacities and costs of HSPA and LTE.
  • Check the overview about internet-by-satellite.
  • Find out more about ESOA (European Satellite Operators Associations), a non-profit European organisation established with the objective of serving and promoting the common interests of European satellite operators.
  • Read the White Paper by the Deployment & Operations Committee of the FttH Council Europe provides a comprehensive overview on all broadband technologies.

Next-generation access (NGA)

Next-generation access (NGA) describes a significant upgrade to the broadband by higher speed and quality of services; wired access networks which consist wholly or in part of optical elements and which are capable of delivering broadband access services with enhanced characteristics (such as higher throughput) fall under this category. The European Union strives to achieve its broadband objectives on the basis of a technology neutral approach which implies the deployment of any available technology depending on a number of factors, e.g. the topography of a region and the broadband policy of a country.

Broadband Technology Coverage

In Europe, broadband is predominantly provided to households through copper and coaxial networks, wireless access networks such as 3G mobile communications and fixed wireless access. At the end of 2012, nearly all households in the European Union were able to access broadband connections through these technologies. More than 99% of households could access standard broadband services through fixed or mobile services and 54% of EU households were already covered by NGA services. This shows that the European Union in 2012 was more than half-way towards its target of 30 Mbps access for all by 2020.

Information from the member states show that DSL is by far the most important fixed line broadband technology in Europe today with 93% coverage of households, followed by standard cable with 42% household coverage. For wireless technologies, satellite ranks first with 98.6% coverage in total, followed by HSPA with 96.3% and the fast growing LTE technology with a coverage rate of 27% of the respective total at the end of 2012.

Find more information on broadband technology coverage in Europe.

The challenge remains to deliver EU-wide ultra high-speed internet access (NGA) until 2020. Whilst results show positive records of an overall NGA coverage increase, there is still a long way to go, particularly in rural and peripheral areas of the European Union.

Check the overview of the deployment of the different broadband technologies in each EU Member.