An effective broadband plan is a major component of a successful regional development programme. But how is a broadband plan developed and what questions should be addressed?

Defining your broadband plan

National and regional policy makers are called to plan investment in order to support the main objectives of regional or rural development policy. Therefore, a broadband plan should be politically supported and in line with the regional policy goals.

Planning broadband includes considerations about sustainable economic growth in various sectors (e.g. health, education and administration), equal access services, innovative drive and citizens’ benefits from digital services. Furthermore, high-speed connectivity has an impact on other policy agendas, e.g. smart cities, telemedicine, education and smart energy grids. For the compilation of your broadband plan, you need to consider:

  • the regional socio-economic development objectives in the next two decades,
  • the expected contribution of high-speed broadband to achieve these objectives,
  • the demand for digital services based on high-speed connectivity,
  • the problems to overcome for facilitating broadband-usage, and
  • the benefits of broadband for local residents and the society at large.

Support in drafting the broadband plan – aggregating and federating with other municipalities and regions

Broadband development requires detailed technical and legal expertise, which can only be carried out with great effort in individual municipalities and regions. It is this crucial to concentrate single interests and to overcome small-scale structures. Collaboration with neighbours across municipal, district, county and country borders in broadband planning and deployment therefore has decisive benefits:

  • economies of scale are achieved,
  • contractual power is gained as you speak with one voice as a single point of contact,
  • integrated infrastructure makes it easier to lease out fibre (long continuous links can be offered rather than short unconnected sections), hence increasing revenue potentials,
  • high quality internet at affordable prices will be attained,
  • knowledge sharing in the fields of technology and legal conditions,
  • use of synergies regarding planning, funding, deployment, leasing and network operation, and
  • mutual use of consulting support from unbiased experts contributes to large-scale project success.

Identifying investment needs

Your broadband plan should include a market and infrastructure analysis of your region’s broadband situation in order to identify the areas for intervention and establish the likely costs. Key issues to be addressed include:

  • the analysis of socio-economic and demographic features of the territory,
  • public services to be delivered (exclusively) online in the coming 5 to 15 years,
  • the current coverage, quality and price of broadband access,
  • achievement of NGN broadband coverage in the region, if no intervention is made,
  • competition for broadband services in the region,
  • the mix of publicly owned and other utility infrastructure,
  • topographical specifics raising costs or determining technology, such as natural protection sites or highly sensitive areas in a city centre, and
  • the role of local communities and "bottom-up initiatives" in contributing to investment.

Defining the goals

The broadband plan should define concrete goals for broadband coverage and the achievement of a higher quality of life in the region, e.g.:

  • percentage of the population/ households with access to high-speed broadband in the year 2025,
  • quality of the required infrastructure in the next 5 to 15 years, and
  • upgradability of the new infrastructure within the next 10 to 20 years.

Identifying stakeholders and establishing collaboration

A broadband plan that creates the right conditions and incentives for a number of relevant stakeholders to participate in the project will be able to better leverage on the resources, competence and assets present in the region and ultimately will have higher chances to be successful.

Relevant stakeholders are:

  • financial and institutional partners,
  • network operators and service providers (interested in selling services over the network),
  • citizen associations, local businesses, housing companies,
  • other companies owning infrastructure (especially fibre, or last mile connections to the end user),
  • other telecom companies willing to lease dark fibre, e.g. 3G/4G operators,
  • cable TV operators, service providers, and any other operator needing backhauling,
  • non-telecom companies wishing to lease dark fibre for their own needs,
  • stakeholders delivering social benefit through advanced social ICT services, and also demonstrating the largest potential customers of the new broadband network (e.g. hospitals, schools, elderly and social housing companies, police, security, military, emergency services, etc.),
  • stakeholders with direct access to private end-users (e.g. property ownership or associations), and
  • institutional stakeholders for regulation and support (e.g. administration officers, municipalities, national and EU government, national telecoms regulators, EU regulators and grant bodies).

Having considered the overall socio-economic picture, the broadband endowment and the policy context for your region, you have to make 4 key strategic choices over: infrastructure and technology, investment model, business model and financing. The last step would be to elaborate a concrete action plan.