Need for speed: Broadband challenges, issues, and trends
Today, investments in high-capacity broadband network infrastructures are desirable for economic growth and necessary for high-bandwidth demanding services. With its 2020 Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission has set out targets for ultra-fast broadband coverage and take-up. The Commission has even traced the path for Gigabits networks and 5G deployments. It seems that without a commercial interest for investment in rural areas, the digital gap between them and urban areas is growing bigger and bigger. There are many challenges among all parties about how to achieve these goals and how to make sure that these ultra-fast networks are available to all users: policy makers, operators, service providers, etc. The provision of bandwidth-demanding services based on the principles of best effort and open Internet seems to be a desirable scenario for the service providers. On the other side, operators are looking for equal playing field with over-the-top players, and are demanding old telecom rules to be reevaluated in order to reflect new market conditions.
Drivers for NGA, rollout and investment, Gigabit society, Digital Agenda targets 2020, cost reduction for NGA deployment, 5G, digital divide, Telecom Regulation Review – CODE, investment incentives, access regulation, OTT services, net neutrality, bandwidth-hungry services
This session will be based on the following five areas and questions for discussion:
AREA FOR DISCUSSION 1:
In order to achieve a digital single market and to generate smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth in the EU, the European Commission in 2010 adopted the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE). The following DAE targets were planned to be reached by 2020: (1) ‘fast’ broadband with Internet speeds of above 30 Mbps for all Europeans, (2) 50% or more of European households subscribe to Internet connections above 100 Mbps or so called ‘ultra-fast broadband access’.
Are these targets attainable for South Eastern European countries? What obstacles may they face? What are the roles of the supply and demand sides of the NGA networks? Which programmes and incentives might be relevant for the NGA deployment and for the successful take-up? Which region-specific investment incentives could drive broadband investment and adoption? How could regulatory incentives promote NGA infrastructure investments?
AREA FOR DISCUSSION 2:
The Directive 2014/61/EU lays down measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks, i.e. access to existing physical infrastructure (such as physical networks for the provision of electricity, gas, water, sewage and drainage systems, heating, and transport services), transparency concerning physical infrastructure (access to minimum information on existing and planned rollout of network infrastructures made available via a single information point – SIP), co-ordination of civil works, access to in-building physical infrastructure, etc.
Many countries have implemented legal changes into their national legislations aiming at reducing the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks, but how efficient those rules were? What should regulators and operators do in order to improve the situation? What should regulators do in order to incentivise investment in high speed networks? How to reduce administrative barriers and increase public awareness about social and economic benefits stemming from the deployment of high-speed networks?
AREA FOR DISCUSSION 3:
The leading role in deploying high speed broadband networks should be played by the private sector. However, it might lack commercial interest either due to market failure or sub-optimal investment, especially in rural and remote areas or other sparsely populated areas. The European Commission estimated that at least 75-80% of the population would have to be covered with 100 Mbps technologies in order to reach the 50% take-up target, which would even widen the investment gap. As a result, rural areas might be even more deprived of the opportunity to have high speed broadband networks coverage and the digital divide could be widened even further.
As the EU structural funds are not accessible for all of the SEE countries, what other mechanisms could be used in order to fill the gap? What would be the role of state aid or public private partnership? Could broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) also help in filling the gap?
AREA FOR DISCUSSION 4:
For the first time since 2009, the European Commission has launched a review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications. In September 2016, it published a draft Directive establishing a European Electronic Communications Code. Regarding the access regulation, the key principles of the 2009 framework remain valid, but significant adjustments are required to provide necessary incentives for both incumbents and competitors to make economically viable investments or co-investments in future networks that are in principle capable of providing very high capacity connectivity to every citizen and business in Europe. The code also clarifies the conditions under which obligations can be imposed on all operators (symmetric obligations), to ensure access to non-replicable network assets, such as in-house wiring and cables. The national regulatory authorities should be empowered to impose access obligations to all operators, without prejudice to their respective market power. The Code also envisages responsibility of the national regulatory authorities to undertake geographic surveys of network deployments and maintain mapping of network deployment (so called ‘broadband map’).
Could amendments related to access regulation further promote infrastructure competition and network deployment by all operators and sustain the deployment of very high capacity networks? Is there anything important missing in the Code? How efficiently can new markets be regulated with current rules and what modifications are required? How to ensure a level playing field for market players and consistent application of the rules in the digital ecosystem? Which are the preconditions for boosting the high capacity network investments? What is the economic impact of digital services, provided over the top of the networks by national, regional, and global providers in the SEE countries?
AREA FOR DISCUSSION 5:
The European Commission envisages that very high-capacity networks like 5G will be a key asset for Europe to compete in the global market. In September 2016, the Commission launched a plan to boost EU efforts for the deployment of 5G infrastructures and services across the Digital Single Market by 2020. The action plan set out a clear roadmap for public and private investment on 5G infrastructure in the EU. The Commission also proposed a set of initiatives and legislative proposals to place the EU at the forefront of Internet connectivity. In order to address future broadband needs, the Commission proposed the following EU broadband targets to be attained by 2025: (1) all schools, transport hubs, and main providers of public services as well as digitally intensive enterprises should have access to Internet connections with download/upload speeds of 1 Gbps; (2) all European households, rural or urban, should have access to networks offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps, which can be upgraded to 1 Gigabit and all urban areas; (3) major roads and railways should have uninterrupted 5G wireless broadband coverage, starting with fully-fledged commercial service in at least one major city in each EU Member State already by 2020.
Where do countries from SEE stand with such ambitious 2025 targets? How important is technological neutrality to achieve the 2025 connectivity targets?
Panel discussion (one moderator and up to four panelists)
- Bogdan Manolea, Association for Technology and Internet, Romania
- Vladimir Ristevski, Vip, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Ucha Seturi, Small and Medium Telecom Operators Association, Georgia
- Primoz Ursic, Agency for Communication Networks and Services of the Republic of Slovenia
Moderator: Sinisa Apostoloski, Agency for Electronic Communications, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Online moderator: Belma Kučukalić, One World Platform, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Nenad Marinković, PlugIn, Serbia
- Domen Savič, Državljan D, Slovenia
- Online services create demand for access and they need to be promoted.
- Competition is important when it comes to broadband deployment, but the government must also create suitable market conditions.
- Access speeds need to be defined (more) clearly.
4. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards a European Gigabit Society
(1), (3), (4), (5), 6, (11), 14, (36), (37), (38), (40), 73, 74 – See full list of proposals
- Sinisa Apostoloski, Agency for Electronic Communications, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (focal point)
- Dušan Caf, Slovenian IGF (focal point)
- Anelia Dimova, Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications, Bulgaria
- Nuno Garcia, UBI, Portugal
- Slobodanka Gievska, Makedonski Telekom AD Skopje, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Blagoj Hristov, Makedonski Telekom AD Skopje, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Nikola Ognenovski, Makedonski Telekom AD Skopje, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Valentina Pellizzer, One World Platform, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Vladimir Ristevski, Vip, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Ucha Seturi, Small and Medium Telecom Operator’s Association of Georgia
Contact points from SEEDIG’s executive committee: Dušan Stojičević, Sorina Teleanu