What is involved in deploying digital networks?

From a distance: It’s harder than it looks to roll out reliable telecommunications networks. Picture credit: Vodafone

Everyone agrees that rolling out gigabit fixed and mobile telecoms networks is critical. 5G, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence all offer a giant technological leap – with the potential to boost growth, increase competitiveness and improve the livelihood of citizens everywhere.

At the same time, Europe, like many countries and regions in the world, is facing an investment gap in order to realise fast rollout of gigabit infrastructure.  In the EU alone, the Commission estimates this gap amounts to more than €150 billion.

When consumers and governments complain that digitalisation isn’t happening fast enough in their country, the finger of blame is often pointed at telecoms operators. 

After all, once we’ve bought mobile spectrum, or secured rights to build fixed, it’s surely just a case of building the network and switching it on, right?

Tip of the iceberg

The reality is that for those operators like Vodafone who are willing and able to invest in digital networks and get them running, it’s much harder to do this than it should be. 

There’s a thicket of economic, logistical and regulatory challenges to be overcome on this journey, which makes deployment more expensive and slower than it should be.

On the move: Infrastructure comes in many forms – like these mobile base stations. Picture credit: Vodafone

Some of these factors are well-known: expensive, lengthy spectrum auctions, or regulation of markets. 

There are plenty that have received next to no attention, such as getting access to existing ducts and poles, power supplies and “dark fibre”. 

And several that stay well under the radar – burdensome planning permissions, arbitrary EMF limits and unnecessary tower heights.

What you put in

Investment in gigabit networks also depends critically on whether the policy environment supports the ability of telecoms companies to build competing, new digital infrastructures – and earn a return for shareholders.

It’s helpful for governments, policymakers and regulators to get an overview of the key factors involved in deploying digital networks, where the barriers are and what best practice looks like.  Vodafone has drawn on its knowledge across 12 EU markets to create Digital Deployment – what we think is the first report that brings all this together.

We want governments and policymakers to work with us, and the rest of industry, to see how we can improve the environment for investing in, and delivering, next generation digital services. 

This report represents that first step.

Read the full Digital Deployment report here:

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