UK is Europe’s superfast broadband laggard: FTTH Council

The FTTH Council Europe has risked embarrassing the UK government by drawing attention to the country’s lack of superfast broadband investment and adoption despite authorities’ bold plans to have “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015”.

In its latest set of FTTH rankings, showing which countries in Europe have the most superfast broadband subscribers, the lobby group singles out the UK as “conspicuously absent”.

The FTTH Council Europe has risked embarrassing the UK government by drawing attention to the country’s lack of superfast broadband investment and adoption despite authorities’ bold plans to have “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015”.

In its latest set of FTTH rankings, showing which countries in Europe have the most superfast broadband subscribers, the lobby group singles out the UK as “conspicuously absent”.

According to the data, the UK has the lowest FTTH subscriber penetration rate of the EU27+9 countries, with just 0.05% of households connected and no large-scale FTTH plan.

“It seems the Broadband Delivery (BDUK) Project has missed the opportunity to bring the country real broadband,” say the report’s authors.

Under that plan, the UK government has allocated more than £500 million in public-sector funds over the lifetime of the current parliament for spending on broadband networks, but the money is intended for rural parts of the country that look unattractive to investors.

Elsewhere, it is relying on private-sector operators, and chiefly BT (London, UK), the former state-owned telecoms monopoly, to serve the need for high-speed connections.

BT, meanwhile, appears to have recently scaled back its investment plans, to the anguish of the FTTH Council. “After having announced a very ambitious FTTH coverage objective in 2011 – 2.5 million homes passed at end 2012 – BT has changed its FTTH strategy once again,” says the FTTH Council report. “The UK incumbent has now decided to mostly upgrade its existing copper network to offer FTTC.”

FTTC connections provide only a fraction of the speed of FTTH ones and will not be able to support the demand for videoconferencing and other advanced applications in future, according to some analysts.

“Additional efforts are required to ensure Europe reaches the Digital Agenda 2020 broadband targets,” said Hartwig Tauber, Director General of FTTH Council Europe. “The decision to invest in FTTH – the only future-proof solution – needs to be made today.”

The FTTH leaders remain the same as last year’s, with Lithuania in top spot, Norway second and Sweden third.

Penetration stands at more than 30% in Lithuania, around 18% in Norway and 14.5% in Sweden.

The FTTH Council also lauds the efforts of public- and private-sector operators in Spain, which entered the FTTH rankings this year for the first time in 20th position, with a penetration rate of 1.42%.

“Uniquely for southern Europe, Asturias’ local government adopted a type of open access network usually found in Scandinavia, rolling out FTTH early on, instead of waiting for private investors,” note report authors.