Investment in the development of high-speed internet networks in Europe remains a bone of contention. Incumbent telecom network operators are dragging their feet, offering feeble excuses for still operating on antiquated copper networks when more advanced technologies, such as fibre, exist.
In an interview following the Fibre to the Home Council's (FFTH) Investors' Day last week, which explored the problems of financing the roll-out of fibre access networks in Europe, Hartwig Tauber, FTTH Council's director-general, summed up the challenges: "Europe needs a fibre solution to stay competitive. Copper delivers slower speeds, particularly for uploads, which are around ten times slower than fibre. But most telecoms companies are short term-oriented. They want quick returns and high dividends. They are not interested in future-oriented investment," he explained. Tauber pointed to Europe's limited fibre roll-out as a case in point. "Only 3% of households in Europe use fibre connections, so we are far below the 10% target. There are multiple benefits from accelerating investment in and deployment of fibre to the home at 100 Mbps or a gigabit in both directions," he said.
BILLIONS OF EU FUNDS UNSPENT
Through its three funds - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund - the Union's cohesion policy is investing a total of 347 billion in 2007-2013 in the member states. A percentage of this money has been allocated to improving telecoms infrastructure. However, significant sums remain unspent. According to Tauber, one reason for this is that the money was made available too early. "Public-private partnerships would have been the easiest way to use this money, but there are always conditions attached. For example, if an operator agrees to take the money to build a network, then other market players also have to be able to benefit...