Incumbents maintain ‘stranglehold’ on European broadband market

2 Sep 2008

Incumbent operators maintained their share of the retail broadband market across Europe with some 47pc of all connections – a figure that has remained static for two years running – raising questions as to whether competition is actually working.

Across Europe, incumbents actually increased their retail market share, particularly in Ireland, France, Austria, Belgium, Finland and Greece.

According to the latest broadband scorecard from the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) – which actually shows broadband penetration in Ireland on the increase to just under 20pc – incumbents typically account for 46pc of the total broadband in market, with regulated access accounting for 36pc and competitors’ own networks accounting for 17pc.

Approximately 83pc of broadband technologies in Europe are digital subscriber line (DSL), followed by 15pc cable, 1pc fibre and 1pc other fixed technologies.

In Sweden, the leader for super broadband services where one in 10 people subscribe to a super-fast connection, some 70pc of the high-speed services were provided by competitors, compared with just 20pc by the incumbent.

“The results show that it is largely competitive providers and not the incumbents who are bringing very high speeds and new services into the market,” said Innocenzo Genna, chairman of ECTA.

“However, consumers’ choice to switch to an operator offering faster and better services depends on regulators enforcing effective access so that the line can be used by multiple companies and not just the owner of the line.

“A real concern is that consumers in some cities or even entire countries could find that the choice they have today reduces and speeds stagnate because policy-makers decide that access to fibre networks is not needed,” Genna said.

Across Europe, broadband lines now reach 102 million people, up from 92 million a year earlier, a 20.9pc increase.

Nordic countries remained European and world leaders in broadband take-up. In Denmark, some 36pc of the population now subscribes to broadband. Netherlands, Sweden and Finland all had penetrations above 30pc. At the other end of the scale, take-up in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Slovakia was less than 10pc of the population.

Of the countries for which information was available, super-broadband speeds (>10Mbit/s) were most predominant in Sweden (10pc of population). By comparison, 1.5pc of the population in Slovenia and Lithuania benefited from ultra high-speed services.

Alternative operators were leaders in super-broadband and provision of voice-over broadband services for nearly all of the countries for which information was available.

DSL and fibre technologies predominate in the provision of >10Mbit/s services and in lines used for voice-over broadband and IPTV. Fixed wireless access is mainly used to offer lower speed services.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years