Stories from Abroad

Since 2010, the Benton Foundation and the New America Foundation have partnered to highlight telecommunications debates from countries outside the U.S.

Fiber infrastructure is not a ‘natural monopoly’

Some people in the telecommunications industry like to compare the copper or fiber lines transmitting data under our feet to railways. They are both natural monopolies, they argue: duplication is wasteful, the high costs of construction deter new entrants, and economies of scale are essential for survival. But laying fiber costs much less than laying a railway track. The very fact that over 100 alternative network providers — or “altnets” — have popped up, backed by billions in private capital, suggests the financial incentives are there to multiply the infrastructure.

Transcelestial creates laser wireless with 25 Gbps speeds

Singapore-based startup Transcelestial invented a laser communications technology that uses infrared spectrum to connect under-served people around the world to the internet. “The cost to connect the world is not commercially viable if upgrades depend on the rollout of new fiber cables,” said Mohammad Danesh, co-founder and CTO of Transcelestial. The company’s Centauri 25G product delivers 25 Gbps internet connectivity via laser beam, eliminating the need for underground cables or radio frequency-based devices.

U.S. and China wage war beneath the waves – over internet cables

Undersea cables are central to US-China technology competition. Across the globe, there are more than 400 cables running along the seafloor, carrying over 95% of all international internet traffic, according to TeleGeography, a Washington-based telecommunications research firm. These data conduits, which transmit everything from emails and banking transactions to military secrets, are vulnerable to sabotage attacks and espionage. The US cable effort has been anchored by a three-year-old interagency task force informally known as Team Telecom.

Network Fee Proposals Are Based on a False Premise

Proposals by some European telecommunication operators to impose network fees on Content Application Providers (CAPs) such as Meta are not the for operators' financial challenges. Network fee proposals are built on a false premise because they do not recognise the value that CAPs create for the digital ecosystem, nor the investments we make in the infrastructure that underpins it. CAPs and telecom operators have collaborated successfully for many years, such as during the Covid pandemic when organisations worked together to help keep people connected.

Home Broadband Performance Report

By September 2022, the average download speed for home broadband connections in the UK was 65.3 Mbit/s, an increase of 10% compared to March 2022. This was largely due to people upgrading to faster services. Less than 3% of households had average download speeds of less than 10 Mbit/s, with cable connections offering the highest average download speed. The proportion of homes in the research with broadband connections that use a superfast package (with an advertised download speed of 30 Mbit/s or higher) was 93%.

Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022

From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, authorities are imposing internet shutdowns at staggering rates. In 2022 alone, governments and other actors disrupted the internet at least 187 times across 35 countries — breaking our #KeepItOn record for the number of countries to hit the kill switch in a single year. Not only are shutdowns resurging after a decrease at the height of the pandemic, they’re lasting longer, targeting specific populations, and are being wielded when people need a connection the most — including during humanitarian crises, mass protests, and active conflict and war.

Fiber is now the dominant broadband access technology in half of all OECD countries

High-speed fiber is now the primary fixed broadband technology in 19 out of 38 OECD countries, according to the latest data. Among these countries, 15 have a share of fiber subscriptions of over 50%. The latest update of the OECD broadband portal shows a 12.3% rise in fiber broadband subscriptions across OECD countries between June 2021 and June 2022, a slightly slower growth rate than the previous 12 months.

The future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure

The European Commission has launched an exploratory consultation to gather views on the potential developments of the connectivity sector and its infrastructure. The aim is to gather views on the changing technological and market landscape and how it may affect the sector for electronic communications. It also touches upon the types of infrastructure and amount of investments that Europe needs to lead the digital transformation in the coming years. Digital markets and in particular connectivity markets are facing transformative technological and market developments.

Full fibre to reach half of homes, as competition drives better broadband

As construction of the UK’s new broadband backbone continues, full-fibre internet will reach half of UK homes in March 2023. Full-fibre broadband is better broadband. It’s more reliable, and many times faster than the average ‘superfast’ connections people have largely used in recent years. Just five years ago, only 6% of homes could get full fibre. But thanks to competition and investment from network builders, that had reached 42% by September 2022. Based on current data, Ofcom now expects the 50% threshold to be passed in March, and to reach more than 80% within the next two years.

The South Korean case of deploying rural broadband via fiber networks through universal service and public-private partnerships

Despite broadband being an essential infrastructure for conducting basic socio-economic activities and reducing inequality and the digital divide, expanding broadband coverage in rural areas remains a significant challenge in many countries due to high deployment costs.