martes, 12 de octubre de 2021

Broadband in the Canary Islands: a complicated path

Broadband is considered a vital infrastructure for countries, similar to electrical or water networks. Its development is of maximum importance. Proof of that is the list of recommendations that the UN Broadband Commission has enunciated, in order to improve the state of broadband in an national and international level. Among these recommendations, we find the need to strengthen digital skills; the importance of entrepreneurship on digital businesses; the adaptation of legal framework to this context; and the reduction of taxes in broadband services and ICT equipment. 

Periferic territories have always been the most vulnerable to technological changes. For that matter, the relationship between broadband and the Canary Islands (a highlight thanks to the volcano of La Palma) has always been quite complicated. We analyze it in collaboration with Julia Borges Cervera. There are three main reasons that explain this fact. First of all, the distance that goes from the Islands to the Iberian Peninsula. From Cádiz (the closest point) to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria there are more than 1268 km

Furthermore, it must be taken into account the territorial fragmentation of the archipielago, comprised of eight irregular volcanic islands. And last, but no least, it is also necessary to mention the dispersion of the population, that goes from big cities -such as Santa Cruz de Tenerife or Las Palmas de Gran Canaria- to rural municipalities, which constitute a significant part of the territory.  

When analyzing the situation of the broadband in this territory, the last data available comes from the report on Broadband in the Canary Islands 2016 (2017 edition), created by the Canary Observatory of Telecommunications and the Information Society (OCTSI). Also, there is additional information in the Spanish Report of the Information Society, Telecommunications and ICT by Autonomous Communities (2019).

The high speed broadband arrived to the Canary Islands in 2012, thanks to the submarine cable deployed by Canalink between Cádiz and the archipielago. Then, the operator ONO was able to access a greater capacity to deploy its new network, which was the main reason of the increase in the speed and availability.

With this fiber optic network, now it was possible to offer 50 and 100 megabytes with real quality. This action contributed to equalise the huge gap between the Islands and the Peninsula, as well as the development of Information Society in Canary Islands. But still, there was a long way to go.

In 2014, Canary Islands were one of the slowest territories in Spain regarding broadband speed. The copper cable was the only option with enough coverage outside the metropolitan area of the Islands, and this technology could only provide a speed of 30 Mbps to 8,4% of the Canarian population, according the  Broadband Report of the Canary Agency of Investigation, Innovation and Information Society (ACIISI). The model was not efficient.

Also, there was a lacking of alternative operators providing broadband services due to the orography of the archipielago, and the dispersion of its population. This facts also provoked the appearance of competition problems in the fixed band market, which did not help to the improvement of Canary Islands’ situation. 

In terms of numbers, Canary Islands broadband connection has always been behind Spain’s. At mid-2016, according to Minetad data, broadband coverage of at least 10 Mbps reached 81% of the Canarian population, compared to 90% of the national average; high-speed broadband (at least 30 Mbps) had 62% coverage compared to the 75% national average; while the very high speed reached 58% compared to 70% nationally.

At the beginning of 2017, Telefonica presented its two-year plan to take fiber to 80% of Canary Island’s municipalities, thanks to an investment of 150 million euros. The 34 municipalities that according to the operator had optic fiber in March 2017 (470,000 households) would be added another 36, leaving three municipalities of Gran Canaria, four of Tenerife, one in Lanzarote, two in Fuerteventura and La Gomera, and six on La Palma.

The case of rural zones

Those who lived in the city where happy with their connection, but what about those living outside the urban zone? They were suffering from disconnection. At that moment, 33% of the Canarian population didn’t have a minimum Internet speed of 30 MB. More than 367,000 (17,47%) didn’t even reach 10 MB, according to the latest Broadband Coverage Report made by the Spanish Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda. 

However, in 2018 things started to change for Canarian people. There was an advancement when the company Hispasat and Eurona started a new project. They offered Internet access via Satellite, providing the more than 360,000 people who reside in the "white areas" of the Canary Islands with powerful access to the Internet thanks to the Ka band of Hispasat satellites and the Eurona platform. This type of satellite was the best option for remote or sparsely populated areas without other technological choices. Ka band is more powerful and concentrated than other frequency bands. The key factor is that it allows a higher speed at a lower cost.

With a more efficient and better service to the client, this action wanted to reduce the digital gap between metropolitan areas -covered by the terrestrial broadband networx, extended by large telecommunications companies- and the rural zones that remained outside that map without enjoying a fast and efficient connection. This action made possible that a great amount of people, almost 700.000, began to use their Internet as they wanted.

In addition to this improvement, the Government decided to fund a part of this project in order to help all the citizens, because that was not only about Internet connection, but also about improving the quality of life and the economic development of the most vulnerable areas of the Islands. 

This Program of Aids was dedicated to the contracting of fixed broadband at 30 Mbps. This way, small and medium-sized enterprises, individuals, NGO and populations of less than 5,000 inhabitants who do not have fixed broadband at a minimum of 10 megabits per second would have an aid of 400 euros that would cover the cost of the equipment. 

Broadband by technologies

During mid-2016, HFC (Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial) coverage remained below 33% of the population in the Canary Islands, compared to 49% on average in Spain, while FTTH (Fiber To The Home) coverage was 58% in the Archipelago compared to 63% of national average.
In 2016, the FTTH accesses installed in the Canary Islands exceeded those of copper pair, a phenomenon that had occurred in the national level the previous year. That was a moment of change. The penetration of the FTTH in the Canary Islands was in 2017 of 10.1 lines per 100 inhabitants; Among all the Autonomous Communities, the Canary Islands occupied the fifth position, when in 2015 it was the third one.

On the other hand, the penetration of cable lines in the Canary Islands stood at 3.3 accesses per 100 inhabitants in 2015. Comparing it to the rest of the CCAA, the Canary Islands continues to be the third worst in penetration of HFC lines, only above Catalonia and Extremadura.

The following graphic shows the evolution of Internet connection in the Canary Islands between 2014 and 2018.

The penetration of the broadband in the Canary Islands was approaching in 2019 the 21 lines per 100 inhabitants, exceedingly again the national average, although is still far from the EU28 (33.2). In Las Palmas (31,4) it is higher than in Tenerife (30,4).

In 2019, 86.8% of Canarian households had access to the Internet, achieving a growth of 6.6 points since 2018. The most common accessed technology was the mobile connection through a handheld device. In the case of homes, the optical fiber was consolidated replacing the ADSL.

This made possible that 70.5% of the population accessed the Internet at least once a day to find information about goods and services; manage email and view entertainment content. All this, according to the Report of Information Society, Telecommunications and ICT in Canary Islands of 2019. 
We analyze broadband and HbbTV evolution (here, the case of Canary Islands) in this blog, in Research Group about Digital Journalism and Marketing and Broadband and in Research Group on Innovative Monetization Systems of Digital Journalism, Marketing and Tourism (SIMPED), from CECABLE,  Escola Universitària Mediterrani of UdGUPF and Blanquerna-URL, in Twitter (@CECABLEresearch), Google+, in the group of LinkedIn, in the page of LinkedIn, in the group of Facebook, in Instagram (CECABLE), in Pinterest and in this blog. We will go in deep in the XXVI Cable and Broadband Catalonia Congress in a global event.

19 comentarios:

  1. Brillant article, Dr. Fondevila! Felicitats!

  2. Les Illes Canàries ara són notícia i aquest article sobre la seva connectivitat s'escau d'allò més. És molt rellevant la lluita dels canaris per poder accedir a la banda ampla amb fluïdesa. Enhorabona per l'article i la teva tasca, Joan Francesc!!!

  3. Gran artículo, muy documentado y demostrando la trascendencia de la Sociedad de la Banda Ancha. ¡Felicidades!

  4. Les Canàries estan patint una certa discriminació en comerç electrònic pel factor logístic. És per això que el fet que disposin de xarxes de banda ampla anirà molt bé per compensar aquestes mancances. Enhorabona per l'article i a seguir així!

  5. S'agraeix poder conèixer la connectivitat de les Canàries, un lloc molt maco!

  6. Gran artículo. Sois geniales. ¡Enhorabuena!

  7. Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.

  8. Donar veu a aquesta lluita constant per una connectivitat de qualitat es molt important. Gràcies per compartir aquest article!

  9. Bon article per conèixer una mica més sobre la situació a les Canaries. Enhorabona!

  10. Molt bon article per ser més conscients de la importància de la connectivitat a les Illes!