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EBRD Regional Conference on Broadband Infrastructure Investment

The identification of strengths and weaknesses of EU Broadband and the suggestion of ways that the EU approach can be adapted outside the member states was among the major topics discussed at the Regional Conference on Broadband Infrastructure Investment.

The Conference was organised by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it took place in Athens on 20 and 21 October 2016 and Dr Leonidas Kanellos attended as a panelist.

The session on lessons learned, challenges and solutions had the objective to provide several cases where EU broadband targets and assistance is being implemented, identify strengths and weaknesses in the EU approach and suggest ways that the approach can be adapted outside the EU member states.

The presentations on Greece, Ireland and Croatia stated the progress made towards the EU broadband targets in each country and the key enablers in terms of policy and regulatory instruments for obtaining it, such as public funding, public-private partnerships, multi-operator investment agreements, state intervention in supply and demand side and so on.

Dr Kanellos, former national and European regulator, briefly commented on the NGA investment conditions in Greece, Ireland and Croatia by reference to some basic broadband market penetration indicators, as reflected in the 2015 EU Digital Agenda scoreboard.

He concluded that the three countries have almost similar scores in fixed broadband coverage while Ireland leads in NGA coverage and mobile broadband penetration as compared with Croatia and Greece (that leads in LTE coverage) and in the share of high speed connections higher than 30Mbps.

He concluded that in all three countries, operator investments still occur, despite the economic conditions, under the targeted regulatory intervention by the NRAs (EETT, Comreg and HAKOM) that has resulted into positive steps towards implementing national broadband plans. However, he considers there is still a long way to go to achieve the connectivity targets of the European Digital Agenda.

To this end, flexible public-private partnership schemes are necessary for network coverage, especially in non-commercially attractive rural areas. New EU and other funding possibilities by incumbent and alternative operators in NGA network upgrade (FFTH, VDSL vectoring, GFast etc) have to be activated so as to support the connected society services (high definition TV, connected devices, cars, IOT etc) towards a citizen-centric all-IP world.

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