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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Broadband: network layers and business roles

In order to understand the roles that public administrations can take, it is useful to view the different layers that make up a broadband network as well as main business roles.

Rede Aberta: The first CEBF-funded project in Galicia, Spain


A broadband network broadly consists of passive infrastructure and active equipment, on top of which the services are delivered:

  • The passive infrastructure consisting of physical infrastructure (pipes, masts, ducts, inspection chambers, manholes, cabinets, buildings or entries to buildings, antenna installations, towers and poles) and the broadband cables proper (the transmission medium)
  • The active equipment (transponders, routers and switches, radio base stations, control and management servers).
  • The actual services that provide value to the end users (internet, telephony, TV, e-health, etc.).

The three network layers are characterised by different technical and economic features, and three main business roles can be identified:

  • The physical infrastructure provider (PIP), who owns and maintains the passive infrastructure (characterised by long-term investments and low need for technical know-how), in the backbone or access part of the network;
  • The network provider (NP), who operates, and typically owns, the active equipment (characterised by shorter-term investments and high need for technical know-how);
  • The service provider (SP), who delivers the broadband services, such as e-health, elder care, TV, internet, phone, video conferencing, entertainment, teleworking, smart monitoring, etc. (characterised by short-term investments and high end-user interaction).

For further details and examples please refer to the Broadband Investment Guide.

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Broadband: Technology overview

An overview of different wired, wireless and upcoming broadband technologies and a description of their advantages, disadvantages and sustainability.

Broadband: Investment models

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Broadband: Main financing tools

The main financing tools for high-speed broadband development projects are own resources, revenue-based financing, loans, equity and grants.

Broadband: State aid

State aid for broadband may be necessary in some places where the market does not provide the necessary infrastructure investment.

Broadband: Network and topology

A broadband network consists of geographical parts. The topology of a network describes how the different parts of a network are connected. The most relevant topologies for the backbone and area networks are tree topologies, ring topologies and meshed topologies. For the first...

Broadband: Choice of infrastructure

Broadband networks require different infrastructure types based on different logistic, economic or demographic conditions. Use the questions to help choose.

Broadband: Technology comparison

A comparison of broadband technologies presents features of each solution and helps decisions on the best solution for different regions.