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 Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (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 François Weber, 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

François Weber

Arcep, France

Alexander Thelen

BNetzA, Germany

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

Work in 2024

In 2024, the FNE WG will continue working on related topics based on the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications BEREC Work Programme 2024.

Update of Criterion three of the BEREC Guidelines on Very High Capacity Networks

The BEREC Guidelines on Very High Capacity Networks (paragraph 18) define four criteria and any network that meets at least one of these criteria is considered to be a very high capacity network. Criteria one and two result directly from the definition of the term “Very High Capacity Network” in the EECC (Article 2(2)), while criteria three and four are also based on this definition but also on data collected from network operators. Criteria three and four provide that any network providing a fixed-line connection (Criterion three) or wireless connection (Criterion four) which is capable of delivering, under usual peak-time conditions, services to end-users with a certain quality of service (performance thresholds for criteria three or four) is considered to be a VHCN.

According to Article 82 of the EECC, “BEREC shall update the guidelines by 31 December 2025, and regularly thereafter”. Therefore, the objective of this project is to update Criterion three based on data to be collected from fixed network operators. This data collection needs to start already in 2024 to complete the project in 2025. BEREC already updated Criterion four in 2023 (BoR (23) 164) and criteria one and two do not need to be updated, as they do not depend on technological developments.

Managing copper network switch-off

In Article 81, the EECC lays down rules for the migration from legacy infrastructure and the decommissioning of the copper-based access networks. According to these provisions, the Significant Market Power operators have to notify the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) in advance and in a timely manner when they plan to decommission parts of the network. The NRA has to ensure that the decommissioning process includes a transparent timetable and conditions, including an appropriate notice period for transition, and the NRA also has to establish the availability of alternative products of at least comparable quality if necessary to safeguard competition and the rights of end users.

The objective of this project is therefore to examine the progress made by the NRAs and the lessons learned so far in order to best prepare for the copper switch-off phase, when significant or most parts of the copper access network will be switched off. The project will be based on previous examinations, the BEREC internal workshop on the migration to VHCN networks and copper switch-off with a focus on the needs of the end-users in September 2023, the BEREC Report on a consistent approach to migration and copper switch-off published in 2022 and the BEREC internal workshop on migration from legacy infrastructures to fibre-based networks in 2019.

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.