The current pandemic has forced many of the aspects of personal and work life to be transferred to the virtual space, it is being the litmus test of connectivity and has led to a vertiginous leap forward in the process of digital transformation. At this juncture, digitization, together with sustainability, are the protagonists of the two revolutions of our time. They are not only necessary, but essential, allies of economic recovery and, in them, telecommunications networks play a crucial role.
‘The world has already changed and it will never be like before’
José María Álvarez-Pallete, Executive Chairman of Telefónica SA
José María Álvarez-Pallete, President of Telefónica.
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of the coronavirus, a time when we learned that taking care of ourselves means taking care of the other, to embrace each other by taking our hands to our hearts, to stay together, have fun, be effective and work as a team from a distance. Ultimately, it will be the year that marked a before and after in all areas of our lives.
The time of confinement has put the economy and society in check, sowing the path of obstacles that have forced us to put into practice new formulas to maintain activity at all levels. As a consequence, the pandemic is assuming a acceleration in the digital transformation process in areas such as health, education, business, commerce or entertainment. It has taken society, in a few months, to the place that at normal cruising pace would have taken a few years to reach.
From those first days of home confinement, the crucial role of telecommunications networks to respond to an extreme need for connectivity: millions of students of all ages following classes in their rooms, hundreds of thousands of people opening offices at home, making purchases remotely, discovering by force the possibilities of e-health, attending meetings and virtual events, claiming 24 hours of leisure online and even taking the canes on Sunday through the different apps. In this difficult situation, sources from Telefónica confirm that Spain has been the only country that has not had connectivity problems to face a increased demand for bandwidth by almost 40%, to a growth in data traffic of 50%, and to a growth of mobile voice of 25%.
And the network endured thanks to its strength: ‘That was Telefónica’s main objective from the first minute of the crisis: to ensure connectivity so that the telecommunications network operated at full capacity, in a reliable, stable and secure manner. The Group carried out the same work in all the countries where it operates, striving to provide its networks with sufficient capacity to absorb the maximum demand peaks, ‘says the operator.
It has been the harsh conditions of confinement and subsequent restrictions that have demonstrated the quality and reliability of the networks: ‘A strong and solid network of more than 1.6 million kilometers of fiber that serves 14 countries. A network that is the fruit of a significant investment of more than 8,000 million euros annual in technological deployment. An investment framed in strategic planning, the result of which has proven to be crucial in recent months’, reports Telefónica.
Spain, the best fiber optic in Europe
In the report Digital Society in Spain 2019, of the Fundación Telefónica, two important milestones are pointed out: that Internet access in Spain is already widespread (nine out of ten Spaniards are already Internet users) and that the connection to the networks in our country is ultrafast, three out of every four homes have fiber optic coverage. This degree of penetration places Spain as European leader in fiber optic deployment to the home or facilities (FTTP or FTTH) across the EU, far ahead of powers such as Germany, France or the UK.
That Spain has the best high-speed internet network in Europe is also confirmed by data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, from where it is stated that “94% of the population has broadband coverage of 30 Mbps, while ultra-fast networks of more than 100 Mbps reach 84%.”
The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), in which the European Commission has evaluated the digital progress of the Member States since 2014, confirms that Spain is four points above the European average, ahead of countries Germany, France or Italy, but still far from the leaders: Denmark , Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
It should be noted that there are two factors in which Spain stands out well above the average: one is that of digital public services and the other is the connectivity. ‘Spain is one of the countries with the best results in the deployment of very high capacity networks, as well as in the implementation of ultra-fast broadband connections of at least 100 Mbps. The deployment is due to commercial investments made by various operators telecommunications; to a regulatory framework focused on supporting deployments through effective regulated access and geographically differentiated access obligations; and an ambitious national strategy that grants grants to rural and sparsely populated areas’, the DESI report points out.
Our country, as confirmed by the evaluation of the European Commission, is particularly well placed when it comes to very high capacity networks. The deployment of fiber optic networks (FTTP) continues to be an important characteristic of the Spanish digital market, with coverage of 80% of households, well above the EU average of 34%. Despite the still existing differences between urban and rural areas, fiber optic network coverage in rural areas in Spain reaches 46% of households, significantly above both the rural and total coverage rates in the EU (21% and 34%, respectively).
A majority of the fiber optic deployment, which places Spain in an advantageous position in the face of the digital transformation of the economy, is the result of Telefónica’s strategy and vision for the future. The Spanish company is a leader in fiber in Europe and Latin America with more than 131 million real estate units passed with high-speed fiber optics at the end of September.
With its evolving networks, it joins forces with the other revolution of our time, as necessary and urgent as the digital one: the green revolution. Fiber is not only the quintessential information transmission medium, it is 85% more energy efficient than copper, its predecessor. In the last four years alone, has it allowed save 346 GWh, which means avoiding the emission into the atmosphere of 93,297 tons of CO2, equivalent to the carbon captured by 1,543,000 trees. Digitization and sustainability go hand in hand: technology, advanced connectivity and high-capacity networks are key to the decarbonization of different sectors, to facilitate efficiency and make our economies greener.
Challenges for the future
The Agenda Spain Digital 2025 presented in July by the Government outlines a roadmap that aims to “relaunch economic growth, reduce inequality and increase productivity.” Digital advancement is built around four lines of action: the deployment of networks and services for digital connectivity; the digitization of the economy; the improvement of electronic Administration, and training in digital skills.
The aforementioned document states: ‘Although progress has been important in all areas, the public and private investment emphasis has been clearly focused on the extension of physical telecommunications networks’, and adds that, precisely as a result of these programs, Spain has a digital infrastructure network among the best in the world, which places it in a very favorable position to tackle the next phases of the process and the pending subjects.
For Telefónica, this reality precipitates the change of scenario that was already underway: ‘It has put us face to face with the need to address the challenges still pending in the digitization process to maximize the possibilities of the new economic paradigm that it comes hand in hand with technology and connectivity. Further shorten the digital divide between rural and urban areas; promote digital training for the whole of society (workers, entrepreneurs, students, teachers …) and support the digitization of companies, reorienting the production model towards a more resilient and sustainable economy, increasing productivity, but also improving well-being and inclusion ‘.
In order to take advantage of the potential of this ongoing revolution to improve the quality of life and well-being of people and generate wealth, Telefónica has presented its proposal for a Digital Pact, a navigation chart for the new digital world. In it, he promotes the establishment of rules of the game adapted to the new post-Covid reality to avoid inequalities in the digital world, promote access to next-generation connectivity and the protection of human rights against technological threats.
The Digital Pact is configured at a time that Telefónica understands commitment and service, therefore it is committed to promoting the complete digitization of Spain, in such a way that By 2025, fiber optics will cover 100% of the country, and decisive progress is made in the implementation of 5G technology.
‘This is the first Industrial Revolution that finds our country not only prepared, but at the forefront. It is time to undertake a true digital transition, and it is no longer enough to adapt: we must anticipate and lead that transformation. We must be ready to take advantage of the outstretched hand that Europe offers us. Telefónica’s commitment to the digital future of Spain is definitive ‘
Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete