Warsaw, 11 February 2015. Newly founded European Local Fibre Alliance (ELFA) has gone public today on the occasion of this year’s FttH Council Conference in Warsaw. ELFA is a new shared voice from alternative public and private local fibre operators calling for a more ambitious European Digital Agenda and the acceleration of fibre deployment in Europe to power ultrafast broadband to citizens and businesses.
At present ELFA has ten member associations from eight EU-countries: Dansk Energi from Denmark, the Estonian Broadband Development Foundation (ELA) , the Finnish Regional Networks Assocation, French Federation des Industriels des Réseaux d’initiative publique (FiRiP), French Federation nationale des collectivités concédantes et régies (FNCCR), German Bundesverband Breitbankommunikation (BREKO), German Bundesverband Glasfaseranschluss (BUGLAS), Spanish Optixcat, the Swedish Urban Network Association (SSnF) and English Independent Networks Co-operative Assocation (INCA).
ELFA finds that competition is a key driver of higher investments in fibre networks in Europe and provides the greatest benefits for European citizens and businesses. ELFA’s vision is to create sustainable fibre based infrastructures in both urban and rural areas across Europe. Its Members are committed to the use of these infrastructures for the economic and social development of communities for the benefit of European citizens and businesses. They support open access business models and technology neutral access networks.
From megabits to gigabits
ELFA support the Digital Agenda for Europe 2020 (DAE2020) launched in 2010 – a vision for a digital economy that delivers sustainable economic and social benefits on modern online services and fast internet connection. ELFA also supports the objectives in DAE2020 for broadband speeds and coverage; basic broadband to all Europeans, and ensure that, by 2020, all Europeans have access to much higher internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and 50% or more of Union households subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps. However, ELFA believes that the growth in IP traffic in the past years, and the expected growth in the next decade, has outdated the ambitions set up in DAE 2020.
Proposals for the European Union
ELFA has the following proposals which will help the European Union to keep up with the global competition in the ICT-area:
- In 2025 at least 50 percent of European households and businesses should have access to broadband infrastructure capable of at least 1 Gbps downstream and 500 Mbps upstream
- All European households and businesses should in 2025 have access to broadband infrastructure capable of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 50 Mbps upstream
- The European Union should bring its current broadband definition of 144 kbps in line with the US broadband definition of 25/3 Mbps to reflect consumer demand and the steep increase in bandwidth-intensive applications
ELFA believes the revisit of targets and broadband definition would be an important message to Member States and industry to encourage rollout of ultra-fast speed networks and take-up of next-generation applications and services.
Different technologies for digital infrastructure
The broadband evolution has only existed for 20 years, but we have already witnessed many phases; from dial-up to ISDN, ADSL, VDSL, 3G, 4G and FTTH. The same question is asked each and every time, and history has always proven that asking the question of “do we need?” is futile. Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of debate and confusion in Europe on the potential bandwidth and lifespan of the different fixed broadband technologies. The principle of technology neutrality in broadband policy, ranging all technologies equal, does not make it easier.
New technologies on telephone copper lines, e.g. vectoring, G.fast (FTTC), can deliver high (download) speeds depending on the length and quality of copper lines. New DOCSIS standards on coaxial copper lines can also deliver higher (download) speeds, but bandwidth is shared among many users and connection speed may drop significantly below advertised “up to” speeds. Depending on existing copper infrastructure FTTC can be an important bridge to a full fibre infrastructure in countries with a high share in unbundled copper lines (e.g. Germany, Italy).
All-fibre networks can deliver download and upload speeds up to 1 Gbps – or even higher (ultra-fast broadband), making the technology future proof. Fibre is largely distance-insensitive making the technology suitable for digital-divide areas, including hard-to-reach rural areas. Connection symmetry on fibre reach for next generation services requiring high upload speeds as well, including cloud computing, video presence, eHealth and e-education applications.
Similar to the steam engine and industrial revolution, ELFA see all-fibre networks to be the enabler of innovation and next generation applications and services, including cloud computing, 4K, video presence, and even as the foundation of future high-speed mobile and Wi-Fi networks. Regardless of time horizon, ELFA believes that every future Euro invested in fixed broadband networks should be allocated fibre. The time to invest is now and the risks of inaction are too high for Europe. We trust that the above is constructive and look forward to take part in the discussion on how to deploy gigabit networks transforming Europe into a leading digital economy.