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A cost study of fixed broadband access networks for rural areas ☆


The deployment of high-capacity broadband access networks in rural areas in Europe lags behind that in urban and suburban areas. This study assesses the cost implications for the rollout of fixed access networks capable of providing citizens with downstream broadband capacities of 30 Mbps or 100 Mbps, which have been defined in the European Digital Agenda as targets that should be met by 2020. A cost model was employed to determine the cost of a home passed and the cost of a home connected for various fibre- and copper-based networks in rural areas. It was found that the cost of deploying a network outside a town or village in a rural area is on average 80% higher than the cost of deploying the network in the town or village. This situation may lead to a digital divide within the same rural area. For all the geotypes analysed, the following order of costs (in descending order) was identified: FTTH, FTTdp-Building, FTTdp-Street, FTTRN, FTTC and CO-VDSL. Given the long lengths of distribution, feeder and drop segments required, some network architectures will not be able to provide all households in some areas with the minimum bandwidth of 30 Mbps as defined in the European Digital Agenda. Overall, it is possible that operators will need to create a combination of various broadband access networks, due to the significant cost differences between networks. Policymakers will need to address several topics to promote the rollout of broadband networks in rural areas: how the digital divide within a rural area can be avoided; a National Broadband Plan that clearly addresses the provisioning of broadband in rural areas; elaboration of studies on broadband demand in rural areas; and the assessment of costs and technical capacity of wireless networks in rural areas.