EU Internet: Speeds Up, Prices Down

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- More than 50,000 European homes and offices added a high-speed broadband Internet connection every day last year, according to the European Commission.

Increasing competition has cut prices as Internet speeds increase, while mobile third-generation Internet services doubled last year to include 88 million users, some 20 percent of the EU's population, the commission said Wednesday.

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands now top the world in their proportion of residents with broadband service, although the European Union as a whole lags behind other regions with a "broadband penetration rate" of 20 percent.

More than half of broadband connections have speeds of 2 megabytes to 10 megabytes per second although a "significant" number of connections transmit data at 10 megabytes per second.

Some 19 million broadband lines were added across Europe last year, generating revenues of $98 billion for telecommunications companies.

But the EU criticized former state monopolies for keeping a tight grip on the telecommunications market, saying they hold nearly half of broadband lines across the EU. It said newer rivals still have limited access to lines that would allow them to provide more connections to customers.

The European Commission also repeated a warning that mobile phone operators are charging customers too much for data roaming, Internet service and text messaging when they go abroad. Prices fell 14 percent when the EU imposed a cap on voice call roaming prices.

The telecommunications sector in the European Union was worth nearly $473 billion last year, up 1.9 percent from 2006.

A large chunk of that revenue - $216 billion - came from mobile phones.

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