Fixed Network Evolution

Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code - the 'EECC' - has, amongst others, the general objective to promote Very High Capacity Networks (VHCNs) which ‘have enormous potential to deliver benefits to consumers and businesses across the EU.’ The projects of the BEREC Fixed Network Evolution Working Group (FNE WG) typically contribute to this objective. The area of expertise of the FNE WG is the continuous evolution of fixed electronic communications networks which include, for example, the rollout of fibre closer and closer to the consumers, the deployment of new access technologies, state aid for broadband networks and the reduction of costs for the deployment of electronic communications networks based on the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive which is planned to be replaced by the Gigabit Infrastructure Act in 2023/2024.

Working Group Co-chairs

The image shows Wilhelm Schramm, Co-chair of the BEREC Fixed Network Evolution Working Group
The image shows Alexander Thelen, Co-chair of the BEREC Fixed Network Evolution Working Group

Wilhelm Schramm

RTR, Austria

Alexander Thelen

BNetzA, Germany

(Note: This video was recorded in 2022. It may include one or more former Co-chairs).

Work in 2023

In 2023, the FNE WG will continue working on related topics based on the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) Work Programme 2023.

BEREC analysis of the European Commission legislative proposal for a Gigabit Infrastructure Act

The European Commission (EC) published its legislative proposal for a Gigabit Infrastructure Act (GIA), on 23 February 2023. The GIA will repeal the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive (BCRD) of 2014. BEREC will analyse this legislative proposal and will submit its analysis to the European Parliament, the Council and the EC.

Update of criterion 4 of the BEREC Guidelines on Very High Capacity Networks

The BEREC Guidelines on Very High Capacity Networks (BoR (20) 165) were published in October 2020. These Guidelines (paragraph 18) define four criteria and any network that meets at least one of these criteria is considered a VHCN. Criterion four provides that any network providing a wireless connection that is capable of delivering, under usual peak-time conditions, services to end-users with a certain quality of service (performance threshold two) is considered to be a VHCN. Criterion four is based on data collected from mobile network operators on Long Term Evolution Advanced (4G). 

These Guidelines state: ‘Since it was not yet possible to take 5G fully into account for the release of these Guidelines, as it has not yet reached mature deployment and significant penetration, BEREC intends to update criterion four as soon as possible and not later than 2023’. This project aims to update criterion four on the basis of data collected from mobile network operators on 5G.

BEREC Report on competition amongst multiple operators of NGA networks in the same geographical region

When defining relevant markets in accordance with Article 64(3) of the EECC, National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) should identify geographic areas where the conditions of competition are similar or sufficiently homogeneous and which can be distinguished from neighbouring areas in which the prevailing conditions of competition are appreciably different. NRAs must pay attention to whether the potential Significant Market Power (SMP) operator acts uniformly across its network area (territory) or whether it faces appreciably different competition conditions to the degree that its activities are constrained in some areas but not in others. In addition, regional operators of VHCN/NGA Networks play an increasingly important role in many countries' broadband market.

The report will investigate how competition between multiple VHCN/NGA regional operators, depending on the degree of network overlap, different business strategies and other relevant factors for competition, is handled in the context of SMP-analysis of the market for wholesale local access provided at a fixed location. The focus will be on the outcome of the competition, namely retail prices and product diversification, due to the presence of competing networks.

BEREC internal workshop on the migration to VHCN networks and copper switch-off with a focus on the needs of the end-users

The requirements concerning the capabilities of electronic communications networks are constantly increasing and the response to that demand is to bring optical fibre closer to the end-user. Therefore, the importance of the copper-based access network is declining, and NRAs are increasingly facing a situation where the SMP operator wants to decommission its legacy copper-based access network and close related network elements, e.g. main distribution frames. The EECC and the Commission Recommendation 2010/572/EU on regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks (NGA), which is planned to be replaced by the Commission Recommendation on the regulatory promotion of Gigabit connectivity in 2023, has already laid down rules for the migration from legacy infrastructure and the decommissioning of the copper-based access networks. 

The copper switch-off due to the migration to fibre-based networks, e.g. VHCNs, is an important ongoing process, particularly for end-users. In 2023, BEREC will therefore examine this topic further and hold an internal workshop with a focus on the needs of the end-users, taking into account, in particular, the information and support available to them, as well as the quality of service in the context of migration to VHCN networks.

Why is this important?

BEREC is committed to supporting the ambitious European Union (EU) connectivity targets for 2030, set out in the Digital Decade Policy Program. Achieving these targets will require the speeding up of VHCN deployment across Member States. The GIA serves as one important instrument to achieve these targets as it aims to roll out VHCNs faster and at lower cost. The EC State aid Guidelines for broadband networks, also analysed by the FNE WG, are another instrument to achieve the EU connectivity targets for 2030, as in certain areas the roll out of VHCNs may need public funds. VHCNs strengthen the international competitiveness of the EU, support innovation in content-rich internet services and have enormous potential to deliver benefits to consumers and businesses.