Fast Internet, available everywhere and to everyone: both fixed and mobile. The Dutch government has set the goal of providing all Dutch citizens with access to fast fixed-connection broadband Internet (at least 100 megabits per second) by 2023. By the same year, the vast majority should be taking advantage of a connection 10 times as fast (one gigabit per second). In addition, State Secretary Mona Keijzer of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy favours integrating coverage obligations into the upcoming frequency auctions for wireless communications, such as that for the 5G network.
These and other basic principles are included in the Digital Connectivity Action Plan presented by the government today. The refined objectives contribute to the Digital Agenda for the Netherlands, the government’s ambition to make the Netherlands the digital front runner in Europe. According to Keijzer: “While we’re currently leading the pack in terms of digital infrastructure, we must now take steps to maintain that position. After all, in the coming years, a continuous Internet connection will become part and parcel of various aspects of daily life, such as cars, agriculture, healthcare, robots and household appliances. This means that every Dutch citizen will need around-the-clock access to fast fixed and mobile Internet. In order to achieve that goal, the government is now creating the preconditions necessary to develop innovations and the ensuing services.”
Additional support for local authorities
Currently, 97% of Dutch citizens have access to fast Internet via a fixed broadband connection. These days, the ability to communicate quickly, irrespective of location, can be considered a basic need and is a precondition for a competitive economy. This is why the government is moving its 100% goal forward by two years, while striving to achieve even greater acceleration by that year (2023). In locations where private investments to this end are difficult to obtain and active government intervention is needed, such as in rural areas, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy intends to offer additional support to municipalities and provinces. Besides the exchange of knowledge on such topics as fees and excavation depths, an umbrella scheme will make it easier for the local authorities themselves to provide financial support for construction. This means that the local authorities will no longer need to submit individual financial assistance schemes to the European Commission.
Coverage obligations for future mobile communications auctions
The government also wants the Netherlands to remain a front runner in mobile Internet services. There are still areas in the Netherlands where mobile network coverage remains insufficient, for instance because it is not profitable for operators to provide that coverage. To address this issue, a coverage obligation will be imposed on licensees in the upcoming auction. This means that coverage must be extended to 98% of the surface area of each municipality in the Netherlands. There are gains to be made as well, thanks to improved connections in homes and businesses. The government is therefore facilitating an initiative from the market to establish a standard for the indoor coverage of wireless and mobile public communications networks.
Clarity concerning preconditions for building the infrastructure
In order to build the digital infrastructure in the Netherlands – and to enable the roll-out of future mobile communications networks in particular – it is essential to optimally arrange the preconditions at the local level. It must, for instance, be clear to both providers and the local authorities in advance what building the future 5G network will entail, including the associated small antennas. The government has therefore decided, among other things, to transpose the EU recommendation on standards for electromagnetic fields into Dutch law, rather than in the current covenant between governments and providers. This will give clarity to providers at the national level. At the same time, consumers will have certainty that electromagnetic fields surrounding the antennas do not pose a risk to health, even if there are multiple antennas in the immediate vicinity.
Mobile Communications Memorandum
Specifically to address wireless communications, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy is working on drafting the Mobile Communications Memorandum. This document will be published following the completion of two ongoing projects. The European Commission has yet to render a decision regarding T-Mobile’s acquisition of mobile provider Tele2. The government plans to present its own solution for the use of the so-called 3.5-gigahertz frequency range in areas including the northern Netherlands before the end of 2018. Both projects are vital to organising the auctions of frequencies such as those for the 5G networks.