ECONOMY

Broadband Internet use rising fast

Long a sluggish laggard in Europe, Greece finally appears to be catching up with the use of broadband Internet. According to the National Telecommunications and Posts Commission (EETT), the independent industry regulator, connections in the first half of the year rose 55 percent to 760,000, making the 1 million target feasible by the end of 2007. EETT noted that although Greece remains a laggard in the use of broadband Internet in Europe, the penetration rate among the population has skyrocketed in just one year (July 2006 – June 2007) from 2.7 percent to 6.9 percent. Indeed, the increase was slightly above the EU average. On January 1, 2007, the average penetration in the 25-member EU stood at 16.2 percent. The Netherlands led with 31.8 percent. In its half-yearly report on the progress of broadband Internet, EETT said that the growth of the market is being led by the spread of the local loop unbundling (LLU) service, that is, without the payment of a fixed charge to the main fixed-line operator, OTE telecom. The regulator pointed out that the number of LLU connections increased five-fold to 100,000 in the first six months of 2007, raising their share in the broadband market from 4 percent at the end of 2006 to 12.3 percent. If the trend continues, this share will rise to about 20 percent by the end of the year. However, despite the impressive growth, LLU penetration is still sluggish, accounting for 1.77 percent of OTE lines at the end of June, against an EU average of 8.44 percent on January 1, 2007. According to EETT, the joint presence of OTE and its competitors in its technical base plays a key role in the development of broadband through LLU. Today, alternative telecom operators have access to 65 of OTE’s telecom centers (only 10 of which are in Attica) and they are targeting 150 by the end of the year. According to available data, they presently have access to 47.6 percent of OTE subscribers, who are their potential customers. Broadband technology in Greece is of the DSL (digital subscriber line) type, which accounts for 99.5 percent of connections. More than 50 percent of these are low-speed (up to 768 kbps), the average being 999 kbps. High-speed connections (4-8 mbps) represent just 0.5 percent of the total.