A new report by the respected economists, Oxera, has revealed how widespread access to superfast internet speeds of at least 1 Gigabit per second will lead to transformative changes in the way people across Europe interact, socialize, work and stay healthy.
The report, commissioned by the leading converged video, broadband and communications company, Liberty Global, details four key areas in which the mass market rollout of Gigabit broadband has the potential to dramatically improve lives: healthcare, commuting, social interaction and the environment.
It predicts that many social and economic benefits will result from the widespread rollout of Gigabit broadband, as increased connectivity changes the way people interact with each other by reducing frictions, which economists refer to as "transaction costs".
Oxera's investigation reveals that healthcare practices could benefit considerably from the increasing availability of Gigabit speeds. It cites estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, that 179 million people within the EU have medical care needs that haven't been addressed, with a quarter saying it was due to a lack of time and a third saying cost was an issue.
In such cases, Gigabit broadband enables applications such as diagnostics-quality video streaming and sharing, which could allow remote consultations, improving the chances of early diagnosis and reducing costs and the need to travel. 24-hour stroke monitoring in the home could also improve outcomes and save up to 35,000 euro per patient per year.
The report also investigates how next-generation networks will change working habits, finding that the number of employees who mainly work from home is only 6%, and that the majority of workers still spend between 263 hours (The Netherlands) and 358 hours (UK) commuting per year.
Gigabit broadband enables applications such as holographic conferencing and augmented reality presence, which means professionals can collaborate without having to travel. Oxera estimates that commuters could save between 1,651 euro (Poland) and 5,380 euro (Ireland) travelling each year.
Alongside healthcare and work, social interactions could be improved considerably with Gigabit broadband. More realistic remote interactions with friends and family through VR and holographic presence will help alleviate loneliness and isolation. Additionally, superfast broadband can help people overcome physical or geographical limitations to enjoy immersive experiences of live sporting or community events.
The report also reveals how Gigabit broadband can help in the fight against climate change. With average annual emissions from commuting ranging from 1.2m tonnes per year (Ireland) at the lowest end to 19m tonnes per year (Germany) at the highest, making more connections virtually rather than physically can reduce carbon emissions from transport. Opportunities also exist in VR learning, VR tourism and home working to substantially reduce carbon emissions from travel.
Oxera's findings come as Liberty Global continues its rollout of “GIGACities” across Europe, making superfast speeds available to millions of customers. In the past few months alone, its operating companies have switched on Gigabit broadband speeds throughout Switzerland, Brussels and Flanders in Belgium, Utrecht in the Netherlands, as well as Southampton and Manchester in the UK.
Those rollouts follow 12 Polish cities, including Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk, and three cities in Slovakia, where Liberty Global has made Gigabit connections available at scale. More GIGACities are set to launch in the coming months and throughout 2020, as Liberty Global continues to lead the next-generation broadband revolution across Europe.