This brochure gives an overview of the connectivity in the EU now and the preparations for 5G. It gives statistics on the broadband coverage, a short overview on telecom markets, presents some outstanding broadband programmes and projects, describes the future telecom rules and the steps towards 5G.

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Faster and higher quality internet for all Europeans

The deployment of 5G is expected to generate € 213 billion in revenues worldwide in 2025 and could lead to € 113 billion in benefits per year across the health, energy, transport and automotive sectors

  • Doctors could operate remotely or closely monitor patients at home

  • Cities could turn to intelligent energy consumption or traffic lights based on real-time needs
  • Factories of the future would have interconnected machines, robots, automated processes, goods, remote workers in real time
  • We could have connected cars driving on European roads

The Commission's connectivity objectives for 2025:

  • All European households should have access to 30 Mbps connections by 2020 and 100 Mbps by 2025, with the possibility to upgrade those networks to reach much higher speeds
  • All main socio-economic drivers - such as schools, universities, research centres, transport hubs, hospitals, public administrations, and enterprises relying on digital technologies - should have access to gigabit connectivity
  • Uninterrupted 5G coverage should be available in all urban areas and all major terrestrial transport paths to connect people and objects
  • Access to mobile data connectivity everywhere, in all places where people live, work, travel and gather.
Download 20 Mbps 2025-Fibre to the home networks: 0.4 Gbps

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Broadband in the EU in 2018

Overall in the EU: 

  • 99% of households are covered by at least one 4G mobile operator in Europe
  • All EU households have access to broadband and 83% of EU households to a fast broadband connection of at least 30 Mbps
  • Fibre and advanced cable networks offer 100 Mbps or more to 60% of EU households
  • However, there are important differences between EU Member States as well as between urban and rural areas

In rural areas:

  • 4G coverage went up from 38% in 2014 to 96% in 2018
  • 52% of households have access to a fast broadband connection of at least 30 Mbps
  • Ultrafast technologies reach only 16% of households

Graph showing increase in percentage of total and rural area homes with broadband coverage of at least 30 Mbps in the EU from 2011 to 2018. In 2011 the total coverage was 48.1%, in 2012 it was 53.7%, in 2013 it was 61.3%, in 2014 it was 66.6%, in 2015 it was 69.7%, in 2016 it was 74.9%, in 2017 it was 79.5% and in 2018 it was 83.1%. While the rural area coverage in 2011 was 8.5%, in 2012 it was 12.4%, in 2013 it was 18.7%, in 2014 it was 24.4%, in 2015 it was 27.6%, in 2016 it was 36.2%, in 2017 it was 44.9% and in 2018 it was 52.3%.

Telecom markets in 2018

European telecom markets are mature and ensure high levels of competition. While operator revenues have remained stable over the most recent years, the quality and coverage of networks has continued to increase.

Revenues of telecoms operators in Europe = EUR 213.4 billion in 2018 (€213.8 billion in 2015)

Prices of bundles, which include fast fixed broadband access, fixed telephony and television, have fallen by 21% on average, since 2014.

EU actions guarantee competitiveness in the telecom markets

  • The regulation of wholesale broadband markets has provided access to high-speed internet services at affordable prices for more EU citizens, while driving operators to compete to invest in higher quality networks.
  • National telecoms regulators consult with the Commission their plans to regulate telecoms markets in advance.
  • The Commission aims at limiting regulation to those markets that would not be effectively competitive without such intervention.

Since 2003, the Commission has analysed over 2,000 draft regulatory decisions and provided guidance.

The number of regulated markets went down from about 19 regulated markets in 2203, to about 6 in 2007 and 4 in 2014.

EU support to bridge the connectivity divide

Telecom operators are the main driver in the deployment and upgrade of broadband networks. However commercial investment generally focuses on the more profitable areas where potential demand is higher and concentrated. In certain areas, especially rural zones, public financial support may be necessary to ensure that no European is left behind. The EU financially supports Member States and private investors, using several instruments to correct imbalances in EU countries.

Outstanding broadband programmes

Now ➔ €6 billion in grants in the 2014-2020 period through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Future ➔ For the period of 2021-2027, the Commission has included broadband infrastructures among the areas where national and regional authorities can invest with support from regional funds in very high capacity networks.

 

Now ➔ The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) gives guarantees and the European Investment Bank (EIB) provides loans to support telecoms infrastructure projects. More than €11.7 billion of total investments are expected to be generated thanks to €3.1 billion from the EIB, with the support from the EFSI budgetary guarantee.

Future ➔ For the period of 2021-2027, the Commission proposes to continue the support to the EIB lending activity through the Invest EU Programme.

 

Now and continuing ➔ The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund launched in 2018 provides equity to project promoters and is expected to unlock additional investments of between €1 billion and €1.7 billion.

 

The first projects will give access to high-speed internet to 135,000 public administrations, businesses and residential locations in rural areas of Croatia and 240,000 in rural areas of Slovenia.

 

Now ➔ For the period of 2018-2020, more than 8.000 vouchers will be awarded through the WiFi4EU Programme with €120 million. A voucher of €15,000 is granted to municipalities to install free public Wi-Fi in parks, squares, public buildings, libraries, health centres, museums throughout Europe.

Future ➔ For the period of 2021-2027, the European Commission has proposed to continue support for initiatives like WiFi4EU. Building on the success of WiFi4EU, this is likely to include an action that is equally simple to register and apply for and which will enhance free local digital services and 5G readiness.

The connecting Europe facility programme 2021-2027

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF2digital) will fund very high capacity networks including 5G. CEF2digital will provide connectivity to ensure that the digital services and capabilities funded by the Digital Europe Programme are widely accessible across Europe, such as supercomputing and artificial intelligence. Budget proposed by the Commission: €3 billion (the exact amount to be decided by the Council and European Parliament before 2021). CEF2digital will provide funding for:

  • 5G corridors along transport paths, including for connected and automated mobility.
  • Gigabit connections for socio-economic drivers and 5G-ready communities: educational and medical centres; public buildings; business parks; households in surrounding areas. 
  • Next generation WiFi4EU: very high quality, free of charge local wireless connectivity; support for the rollout of 5G small cells.
  • Key backbone networks connectivity of strategic importance, such as: submarine cables; terabit-capacity connections for high performance computing; cross-border interconnections of European cloud infrastructures of strategic importance.

New telecom rules

The European Electronic Communications Code (the Code) and the BEREC Regulation entered into force on 20 December 2018. The Code needs to be transposed into national law by 21 December 2020. The new EU telecom rules will make easier to invest in secure high capacity networks that will change the way we live, work and travel. They will notably:

  • facilitate the roll-out of new, very high capacity fixed and wireless networks, including through co-investment by competing players
  • promote competition, including efficient infrastructure-based competition
  • benefit and protect consumers, irrespective of whether they communicate through traditional calls or SMS, or web-based services such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc.

Open Internet 

The EU’s Regulation on open internet access grants end-users the directly applicable right to access and distribute the lawful content and services of their choice via their internet access service. The main principle: internet traffic shall be treated without discrimination, blocking, throttling or prioritisation. At the same time, the EU open internet access rules allow reasonable traffic management and, with the necessary safeguards, “specialised services”.

Steps towards 5G

5G will be one of the most critical building blocks of our digital economy and society in the next decade. 

1. Radio spectrum management

The Commission has adopted harmonisation decisions for the EU-wide availability of three 5G ‘pioneer’ bands, which are intended for use with initial 5G deployments. These are:

  • 700 MHz band (to give wide territorial coverage, including in rural areas);
  • 3.4-3.8 GHz band (to give higher data capacity with moderate reach);
  • 26 GHz band (for very high capacity in dense areas, such as cities or factories).

The Member States shall authorise the use of these three bands (subject to limited exceptions) by the end of 2020. This will ensure access to appropriate spectrum for providers of innovative 5G services. In the future, once the Code is implemented, radio spectrum  will be assigned and coordinated even better at EU level so that Europe can become a leader in the rollout of 5G networks, with reasonable reserve prices and longer licence periods to encourage investment.

2. Facilitating the roll-out of 5G networks

Deployment of 5G networks already benefits from the EU’s Broadband Cost Reduction Directive, which simplifies and speeds up permit-granting. From mid-2020, the Code will require Member States to allow deployment of low-power small cells, as defined by the European Commission, without individual permits. These small cells are essential to increase the data capacity of 5G networks where it is needed most, in dense areas. They will remain subject to general rules on urban planning, emissions, etc.

3. 5G for Europe action plan

 

Illustration shows 5G action plan for Europe, illustrated with a graph and a map. The map shows that 11 Member States have published national 5G roadmaps: United Kingdom, Spain, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia. The graph shows 5g pioneer spectrum: 14% of 5G spectrum assigned. In 2020, the 700 MHz band: 16.7% to be assigned and usable, 3.6% to be assigned but not usable and 79.8% not assigned. The 3.4-3.8 GHz band: 23% to be assigned and usable, 1% assigned but not-usable, 76% not usable. The 26 GHz band: 3.6% assigned and usable in 2020, 96.4% not assigned.