Discours de Xavier Bettel à l'occasion de la conférence "Fibre to the home 2016"

"Deploying fiber is a future proof investment"

"Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you today in Luxembourg for the Fiber to the Home Conference 2016.

Being able to host this conference is a real privilege for my country. The digital revolution is changing our lives and only fiber is providing the capacity for our networks to support the ever increasing needs in connectivity.

The deployment of fiber is indeed high on the agenda in Luxembourg, even higher than in most other countries. Fantastic work is being realized, even if not everybody does share my enthusiasm right now, because putting fiber into the ground unfortunately doesn’t go without a lot of dirt, noise and traffic jams.

But let me take the opportunity of your visit to Luxembourg to mention some pieces of our history.

Luxembourg used to be a quite famous fortress in the late middle ages, providing the theater for spectacular war scenes opposing the European military powers, armies coming from France, Germany, Spain, Austria or Burgundy to besiege, occupy or defend the rocks on which the city of Luxembourg was built. In the 19th century the fortress was finally dismantled and neutralized by the creation of an independent Grand-Duchy. With the walls falling, the tiny country opened wide its doors to trade and communicate with its bigger neighbors.

Iron mining and steel mills brought some wealth into our country, which is today still the seat of Arcelor-Mittal, the biggest steel producer in the world.

Being one of the six founding members of the European Union, our country has the privilege to host the European Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank and services of the European Commission and of the European Parliament.

It is also the home of RTL Group, the biggest European private broadcaster, which started in the 1930s by using Luxembourg’s radio frequencies, and of SES, the leading satellite operator which offers worldwide coverage for TV distribution, but also internet connectivity around the world.

And Luxembourg is of course a financial center, providing finance and banking services to an international customer base.

When the internet emerged, we had soon the ambition to table on our broadcasting and satellite assets to diversify further our economy by developing the ICT sector. But we had first to acknowledge that the information highways did in fact circumvent our territory, and that we were not really on the map of the major data streams. We soon undertook to radically improve our international connectivity, drawing also on our central location at the crossroads in the middle of major European metropoles such as Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels. We also started to improve connectivity within the country, putting fibre into the ground for the backbone, building state of the art data centers, attracting international carriers, setting up a Luxembourg Internet Exchange and stimulating competition on the domestic market.

We finally succeeded in being chosen as a European hub by major Internet players, but we saw also many smaller ICT companies growing and even highly successful startups such as Skype were founded in Luxembourg. We were able to attract skilled talent and to create a favorable business environment, allowing such companies to flourish and take root. Our multilinguism, political and economic stability, low electricity prices and an outperforming electricity grid are all part of the advantages our country has to offer.

In April 2010 the government adopted an ambitious strategy for the deployment of ultra-high speed networks, with the stated goal to become the first “fibred” country in the European Union.

The strategy includes quantified objectives with deadlines, aiming at a complete coverage of the country with a network allowing speeds of 100 Megabits per second at the end of 2015 and 1 Gigabit per second at the end of 2020. Notably the strategy provides also for ambitious targets not only for download speeds but also for upload speeds being set at 50% of the download speed.

And up to now the objectives have been largely fulfilled: of course you never reach a 100 percent. And we do not yet have all the statistics for the end of 2015, but at mid 2015, in more than half of our municipalities, including all the biggest, at least 90 % of the households had access to a connection allowing for a download speed of 100 Megabits per second, and in all the municipalities, 90 % or more had access to a speed of 30 Megabits per second.

This result has been achieved by a mix of technologies, including fiber to the home, VDSL and cable. Mobile networks are of course also crucial, not only to complete the coverage, but also for communications on the move. 4G has been deployed in Luxembourg since 2012.

But when it comes to the Gigabit level, you need fiber, and preferably “Fiber to the Home”. And about half of the country is fibred by now, so we are on the right way.

The strategy sets objectives, but no binding obligations. The progress achieved would not have been possible without the commitment of our historic operator, Post Luxembourg, which had already deployed a lot of fiber before 2010 and which responded positively to the strategy be accelerating its investments.  It also accepted the recommendation of the strategy to opt for a point to point network architecture, which facilitates local loop unbundling and allows for enhanced competition and hence more choice for the consumer.

In addition to fixing the objectives, the strategy provides for a number of accompanying measures, such as a public works registry, instructions for posing ducts when new roads are built or in new buildings.

Further steps will be taken soon by the adoption of a new law transposing the so-called European directive on cost reduction, which will also make mandatory a number of measures which were already included in the strategy. As in Luxembourg the ownership of the common parts of many multi dwelling buildings is in fact shared between the owners of the different flats, which makes it complicated to take decisions on in-house cabling, we have included specific provisions to help bridging the last step between the fiber in the basement of the building and the homes at the different floors.

Ladies and gentleman,

Deploying fiber to the home is of course not the final objective, it is an enabler rather than an end in itself. My government has made the ultra-high speed broadband initiative part of a broader strategy which we call Digital Luxembourg. Our goal is to make use of the infrastructure to further develop the ICT sector, to improve the competitiveness of our economy as a whole, to increase the productivity of our workforce and to facilitate the life of our citizens. We want to make Luxembourg a smart and connected country.

Luxembourg cannot prosper alone however. We are deeply rooted in the European economy and it is essential that our European partners engage into the same route. We welcome the European Commission’s Digital Single Market imitative and support its endeavor. Data must be able to circulate free and secure in the Single European Market, the same as for goods, services, persons and capital. Luxembourg just finished its six months term as a Presidency of the Council of the European Union. And we are proud that we have been able to contribute substantially to the Digital Single Market by achieving the long expected agreement on the European data protection regulation, but also by completing the adoption of the regulation abolishing the roaming surcharges for mobile communications in Europe and securing the open internet, by reaching an agreement on the directive on network and information security, by securing the timely entry into fore of the ISA squared programme on interoperability and by obtaining an agreement for the opening of discussions with the European Parliament on the accessibility of public sector websites.

I can only hope that this positive drive can be maintained and that fast progress on other Digital Single Market initiatives will be achieved. This is key for Europe, and it is key for Luxembourg as well. We want a smart Luxembourg within a smart Europe.

Being connected, being able to communicate, having access to information at all times and at any place is key for citizens, businesses and also for the administration. And increasingly also objects are communicating. Not only do we communicate with machines, but they communicate with each other.

Video streaming in high resolution, exchanging pictures, downloading software, videoconferencing, teleworking, telemedicine, smart metering, smart mobility and logistics and many other applications need increasing bandwidth. We all have multiple devices and it often happens that many people want to use them at the same time in the same place. The increased capacity of our networks will open many new opportunities which will in turn create new needs.

I have no doubt that the infrastructure that we are putting in place today will be most needed in a few years’ time. And I am sure that this conference will help to convince those who doubt, who might consider that our goals are overly ambitious. Deploying fiber is a future proof investment. It is the key to innovation and puts the basis for future economic growth. I would like to thank the organisers for choosing Luxembourg to host this conference and I wish them full success."

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