This brochure gives the current state of play of connectivity in the EU and the vision for the next decade. It gives statistics on broadband coverage, a short overview on telecom markets, presents broadband financing programmes and projects, describes the telecom rules and the steps towards 5G.
EU 2025 Connectivity objectives
The EU set ambitious connectivity objectives for 2025:
- 100 Mbps networks reaching all European households by 2025, with the possibility to upgrade those networks to reach much higher speeds
- Gigabit connectivity connecting all main socio-economic drivers - such as schools, universities, research centers, transport hubs, hospitals, public administrations, and enterprises relying on digital technologies - should have access to gigabit connectivity
- Uninterrupted 5G coverage should be available in all urban areas and all major terrestrial transport paths to connect people and objects
- Access to mobile data connectivity everywhere, in all places where people live, work, travel and gather.
Advanced connectivity means faster data-sharing:Download 20 Mbps 2025-Fibre to the home networks: 0.4 Gbps
Virtual reality game
Top smartphone storage
Medium-sized corporate server restore
State of Play
A lot of work on connectivity is still ahead. In 2019, in the EU:
- 99% of households were covered by at least one 4G mobile operator in Europe
- All EU households had access to broadband and 86% of EU households to a fast broadband connection of at least 30 Mbps.
- More than half of the European households were not covered with very high capacity networks (44% of the households in July 2019), and the coverage with FTTP was even lower than 34%.
- There were important differences between EU Member States, as well as between urban and rural areas.
- In rural areas:
- 4G coverage went up from 38% in 2014 to 98% in 2019
- Only 59% of households had access to a fast broadband connection of at least 30 Mbps.
- Coverage of households with very high capacity networks reached only 20% of the households, while a poor 18% of the households were covered by FTTP.
European telecom markets are mature and ensure high levels of competition. While operator revenues have remained stable over the most recent years, the quality and coverage of networks has continued to increase. Prices of at least 100 Mbps bundles (fixed broadband, fixed voice and television) decreased by 35% between 2014 and 2019.
EU actions guarantee competitiveness in the telecom markets
- The regulation of wholesale broadband markets has encouraged operators to compete to invest in high capacity networks. This ensures more EU citizens have access to high-speed internet services at affordable prices.
- National telecoms regulators consult with the Commission, and with each other, on their plans to regulate telecoms markets in advance.
- The Commission aims at regulating only those markets that would not be effectively competitive without such intervention.
Since 2003, the Commission has analyzed over 2,000 draft regulatory decisions, providing guidance to national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and ensuring harmonization of regulatory approaches. The Commission works closely with the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC), and in some cases, after receiving BEREC’s opinion, the Commission has blocked measures which were either not compatible with Union laws, or would create a barrier to internal market.
Over the years, with the progressing development of competitive markets, the sector specific regulation was significantly rolled back. Since December 2020, only 2 wholesale markets are still considered to be susceptible to ex ante regulation at EU level, according to the updated Recommendation on relevant markets. The number of such markets went down from 18 in 2003, to 7 in 2007, and 5 in 2014.
New telecom rules
- facilitate the roll-out of new, very high capacity fixed and wireless networks, including through co-investment and infrastructure sharing by competing players
- promote competition, including efficient infrastructure-based competition
- benefit and protect consumers, irrespective of whether they communicate through traditional calls or SMS, or web-based services such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc.
- enhance coordination in radio spectrum management at Union and national level
Steps towards 5G
The deployment of 5G is expected to generate € 213 billion in revenues worldwide in 2025 and could lead to € 113 billion in benefits per year across the health, energy, transport and automotive sectors
- Doctors could operate remotely or closely monitor patients at home
- Cities could turn to intelligent energy consumption or traffic lights based on real-time needs
- Factories of the future would have interconnected machines, robots, automated processes, goods, remote workers in real time
- We could have connected cars driving on European roads
Radio spectrum management
- 700 MHz band (to give wide territorial coverage, including in rural areas);
- 3.4-3.8 GHz band (to give higher data capacity with moderate reach);
- 26 GHz band (for very high capacity in dense areas, such as cities or factories).
Facilitating the roll-out of 5G networks
5G state of play
Connectivity toolbox Recommendation
The Toolbox of best practices will help Member States reach the Gigabit connectivity goals by 2025 and support the objectives of the European Electronic Communications Code, The implementation of the Toolbox can contribute to the Member States´ preparation of their intended reforms in the context of the recovery and resilience plans in the area of digital, to which 20% of the funds have to be allocated.
EU support to bridge the connectivity divide
For the period of 2021-2027, the Commission has included broadband infrastructures among the areas where national and regional authorities can invest in very high capacity networks with support from the European Structure and Investments Funds. In addition, the Commission proposes to continue supporting the EIB lending activity for broadband networks through the Invest EU Programme.
The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund
For the period of 2021-2027, building on its success, the European Commission is proposing to evolve the WiFi4EU initiative into a new programme that aims to deploy 5G systems to support innovative use cases in future “5G communities”.
The new Connecting Europe Facility programme 2021-2027
- 5G corridors along transport paths, including for connected and automated mobility.
- Gigabit connections for socio-economic drivers and 5G-ready communities: educational and medical centers; public buildings; business parks; households in surrounding areas.
- Key backbone connectivity networks of strategic importance, such as: submarine cables; terabit-capacity connections for high performance computing; cross-border interconnections of European cloud infrastructures of strategic importance.
Connectivity for Recovery and Resilience - Digital Decade
- Invest in future-proof infrastructures (fibre and 5G), connect digital capacities (data, cloud, HPC…) and enable innovation and new business models for the digital sector.
- Accelerate reforms such as the necessary assignment of 5G radio spectrum, remove unnecessary administrative hurdles, streamline permit granting procedures and fees as well as facilitate access to physical infrastructure, boost know-how as well as digital planning tools to minimise the environmental impact of the infrastructure projects, as well as increase the number of qualified professionals.