EU declares that from 2017 all new buildings must be broadband ready
While the UK is steadily progressing towards its 90% (around 2015) and 95% (2017) superfast broadband targets the EU has a longer term goal for 2020 of all citizens in the EU having access to a 30 Mbps or faster connection and 50% of us actually buying a 100 Mbps service. To help achieve this target particularly in countries where faster services are still the domain of cities and towns only the EU has issued a series of directives to help broadband roll-out with the nitty gritty to be dealt with by the local Government.
The measures proposed generally mean no money is needed from the EU and are designed to try and reduce the cost for those wanting to roll-out broadband. The effect of the measures will vary according to the state of play in each EU country but the EU estimates that these changes could save 40 to 60 billion Euro, which amounts to a 30% reduction in expected costs if the EU 2020 targets are to be met. The cost of rolling out infrastructure is largely civils based with the install phase amounting to 80% of the work to roll-out a new network.
The measures outlined are:
- A 'broadband-ready' label for buildings with high-speed access.
- New build and major renovations of buildings from 1st January 2017 will need to be high speed ready, exemptions will be allowed for historic buildings, holiday homes or where the cost to do this would be disproportionate. We believe this actually means ensuring ducting leads to each apartment, rather than pre-installing fibre or Ethernet cabling.
- The right to offer sewage, water main, electricity distribution infrastructure to the telecoms sector so they can use it to install broadband.
- Network operators (e.g. telecoms, power, water) will have an obligation to offer access to their infrastructure if a reasonable request is made. No details of how pricing will be controlled, but refusal can be due to technical unsuitability, safety, public health or network security.
- Single information point for operators on existing infrastructure and future plans and if a single point is not available the ability to request it directly from network operators.
Some of these plans may sound slightly familiar from previous efforts by the UK Government to simplify planning regulations and the arguing over the costs of Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) (largely to the Openreach network).
The short summary is that any utility firm that has ducting could potentially be expected to share this now, and while the majority will interpret this as being about breaking the Openreach local loop monopoly, it must be remembered that the UK has a good number of fibre backbone operators and a Virgin Media ducted network across cities and towns (amounts to 48% of UK households). Creative ideas to utilise these alternate ducted networks could be the key to ensuring a more competitive UK local loop and better broadband.
We are unsure as to what effect these changes will have on broadband in rural areas of the UK, where local infrastructure is often very sparse. It is likely that the main winners will be apartment buildings and new competitors in the cities.