ADSL is only a transitory technology that will be overtaken by fibre optic solutions within 10 years, according to the European Commission.
According to an EC report published this week, ADSL and cable broadband will not be fast enough to keep pace with the demand for multimedia and applications content. In the short term, though, both technologies will achieve significant market share within the next few years. ADSL's penetration of the European home Internet market is expected to peak at 37 percent in 2005.
The report, titled The Development of Broadband Access Platforms in Europe, illustrates how seriously the European Commission takes the issue of high-speed Internet usage. "The study clearly tells us that the future of the Internet is broadband," said Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society, who believes that a forward-looking strategy is essential if Europe's citizens are to benefit from broadband.
"It [broadband] will be one of our top priorities in 2002", he insisted.
The EC is keeping a firm eye on the progress of broadband connections across the community. Anti-trust chief Mario Monti accused some of Europe's biggest telco's of deliberately obstructing local-loop unbundling -- a process seen as crucial if consumers are to be offered cheap and competitive broadband services in the near future.
Any telecom operators found guilty of such monopolistic practices would be fined 10 percent of annual revenue. Monti did not disclose which companies were under suspicion.
The EC report forecasts that by 2010, almost 90 percent of Europe's home Internet users will use broadband. ADSL will make up 28 percent of the home surfing market -- down from its peak of 37 percent -- with 20 percent of people using cable modems, and a total of around 33 percent connecting to fibre optic networks.
"While ADSL will help to fuel the development of broadband, it does have technical limitations and could be seen as an interim solution until higher-bandwidth solutions, such as fibre to the home, become economically available to the market," said the report.
To many British Internet users, the idea of signing up for fibre optic networks capable of data transfer rates between 10MB and 100MB per second may seen far-fetched, given how few of them have signed up for broadband.
With BT's Sir Peter Bonfield predicting that the UK may only achieve 25 percent take-up of broadband within the next three or four years, this EC study suggests many European surfers could be enjoying the benefits of a fibre-optic system while the UK's more remote regions wait for their local exchange to be ADSL-enabled, or for the ntl or Telewest to decide to lay cable to their front door.
One way of bringing high-speed Internet access to remote areas, where there isn't an economic case for ADSL or cable modems, is fixed wireless access (FWA). The EU predicts that 6 percent of home Internet connections could use FWA by 2006.
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