With almost 80% of homes in the EU-7 (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and UK) having online access in 2013, Internet connections are a standard household component today in Western Europe. And as users demand faster connections to consume rich media content across multiple devices, broadband connectivity is quickly becoming the norm. The Forrester Research Online Access Forecast — Broadband, 2012 To 2017 (EU-7) shows that 72% of all EU-7 households had a DSL, cable, or fiber broadband subscription in 2012, well above the global average. But not all European countries show the same level of adoption. Within this group of seven, we can split the countries into three distinct groups of relative broadband development and adoption:
Advanced adopters. The Netherlands and Sweden lead the pack in terms of both broadband penetration and the share of broadband users opting for high-speed connections. Early and robust deployment of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks and strong cable offerings will encourage most consumers to shift away from slower connections, giving cable and fiber more than a 60% share of the home broadband market by 2017. Sweden in particular has one of the world’s strongest high-speed Internet markets today, with more than a quarter of all households enjoying a fiber connection.
This summer Switzerland’s incumbent carrier, Swisscom, launched a simple but revolutionary new mobile tariff, Natel Infinity. Infinity is a speed-based tariff that comes in the versions XS, S, M, L, and XL, which represent download speeds ranging from 200 kbit/s to 100 Mbit/s. Prices range from CHF59 to CHF169 per month (€49 to €139). Significantly, the tariff throws in unlimited national voice, SMS messaging services, and data usage without any additional charge (XL even comes with unlimited international calls to most destinations and SMS).
The idea is simple: The greater your urge for fast mobile services, the more you pay — irrespective of which apps you use and how you wish to communicate. All that matters is speed. In this respect, Swisscom has replicated for the mobile world a tariff approach that is already fairly common in the fixed-line world. I believe this move by Swisscom is noteworthy in two respects:
It effectively pulls the rug from under the OTT voice and messaging services like WhatsApp and Tango by removing the arbitrage potential created by time- or distance-based pricing schemes.
It brings in line capital spending on and actual demand for network infrastructure capacity.
The other day I had an interesting discussion with Google about their Fiber-to-the home (FTTH) infrastructure. Google’s reasoning behind the move into the network infrastructure space stems from the belief that online growth and technology innovation are driven by three main factors:
The cost of storage, which has fallen considerably in previous years.
Computing power, which has increased in previous years.
The price and speed of Internet access, which has been stagnant for a decade. Today, the average Internet user in the US receives 5 Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload speed.