The Path to the EU’s Digital Decade

As we enter the third year of the EU’s Digital Decade, we remind ourselves of what the EU objectives are, where each member state stands to date in implementing the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) legislation and what technology options are available to operators in the EU to achieve these ambitious targets.

European Union objectives

“It is really important that we make sure that everybody has the opportunity to be part of the digital society because, to a certain extent, it is the society into which we have moved,” states Rita Wezenbeek, Director of Connectivity within the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology European Commission “Introducing the Path to the Digital Decade,” Shaping Europe’s Digital Future, November 23, 2021.

In the "2030 Digital Compass,” the European Commission has proposed setting up clear and ambitious targets for digital infrastructure.

The Digital Compass states that by 2030, all EU households should be covered by a Gigabit network, and all populated areas should be covered by 5G. The Digital Decade Policy Programme's proposal shows that societal needs for upload and download bandwidth are constantly growing. It states that by 2030, networks with Gigabit speeds should become available at accessible conditions for all those who need or wish to have such capacity.

For these objectives on fixed and mobile communication networks to be achieved, each member state has to implement the EECC directive into its legislation.

The European Commission reiterated the centrality of "hyperconnectivity" in its recent Strategic Foresight Report, identifying it as one of four key factors that will have a major impact on the EU in the future. The term hyperconnectivity refers to the ever-increasing number of interconnected devices that, when performance allows, enable the development of new services, jobs, business models, and forms of human interaction.

EECC Implementation to Date

The latest information from the EU members states shows that five countries have already taken all the necessary legislative steps to implement the EECC. These include Bulgaria, Finland, France, Denmark, and Hungary. Furthermore, Greece, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands are in the final stage of implementing the legislation into law. However, this means the majority of EU countries still won’t have EECC legislation in place until early 2022.

Source European Electronic Communications Code – Implementation Status (Update) – Connect On Tech Blog
by Robbie Downing, Alex Lumley, Steve Holmes & Baker Mackenzie

When we look at the ambitious targets, what technologies make the cut?

Fibre to the Building (FTTB)

Gfast and DOCSIS 3.1 are two Fibre-to-the-Building technologies that consist of fibre roll-out up to the distribution point and copper or cable technology to the subscriber premises. Also known as fibre extension technologies, they can deliver gigabit broadband utilising existing infrastructure, speeding time-to-market while lowering costs. But DOCSIS 3.1 has an asymmetric download-upload scheme, and in practice, gigabit speeds are not possible for upload.

Fibre to the Home (FTTH)

Full-fibre networks that run fibre to the customer premises are the most versatile and are best suited to hit the performance thresholds specified. Passive Optical Network (PON) technologies GPON (2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream) and XGS-PON (10 Gbps downstream and upstream) enable cost-effective delivery of residential broadband and gigabit services using a point-to-multipoint (P2MP) architectures. To leverage the best of both worlds, service providers can leverage Combo PON as it allows simultaneous delivery of GPON and XGS-PON over the same Optical Distribution Network, simplifying migration to multigigabit services while delivering a greater return on investment.

Fibre to the Mast (FTTM)

In the case of mobile networks, 4G with the LTE Advanced extensions of carrier aggregation and multiple input multiple output (MIMO) and 5G enable gigabit services. However, to ensure gigabit speeds for mobile subscribers, each antenna site also needs appropriate backhaul connectivity, bringing fiber solutions into the network.

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Next-generation fixed wireless solutions, including Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and mmWave technologies, offer rapid and reliable connectivity in dense urban and underserved rural markets at a comparable or lower price than full fibre. Urban fibre trenching is often prohibited by municipal regulations. It is also so costly to obtain the necessary permits and to complete the install if there is no business case for doing so. Here FWA can offer an expedited time-to-market and ensure that the gap for gigabit connectivity is closed quickly.

There is still time, and the technology is there for member states to achieve the targets set out by the EU. The EU is promoting a series of workshops to address the financial challenges of reaching the targets. The next workshop, “A one-day digital infrastructure investor online workshop to bring together private and public actors from the industry and the investor community, EU Member States and Commission Services.” will be held 7 December from 09:30 – 17:00 For more information, click here.