Daily: Commission report cites slow Estonian internet, telecoms blame state

Telecommunications tower in Tallinn.
Telecommunications tower in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Published this fall, the European Commission's 2022 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) ranked Estonia second to last for connectivity among EU member states — a result which can be attributed to two factors: the country's delay in issuing 5G frequency licenses and the limited use of high-speed internet, daily Postimees writes.

While Estonia ranks 26th out of 27 for connectivity, it nonetheless leads the EU in terms of digital public services, which provocatively could be interpreted to mean that the Estonian state offers the digital world is very good, while what the private sector offers is mediocre at best and shoddy at worst, Postimees (link in Estonian) said Tuesday night.

Estonian telecoms, meanwhile, have been saying for years already that the quality of internet access goes beyond just internet speeds, and claiming that the average internet user in Estonia doesn't even need fast (100 megabits per second, or Mbps) or ultrafast (1 gigabyte per second, or Gbps) internet, as services and products requiring high-speed internet connectivity are limited and consumer interest in them is low.

Another, compounding factor cited in the Commission's report is price — 1 Gbps internet costs less in Lithuania, for example, than a 100 Mbps connection in Estonia, meaning that people in Estonia are paying more than Lithuanians for a service that is ten times slower.

While in a certain respect it can then be considered true that Estonia's lagging connectivity isn't an issue if it simply lacks a vital need for faster internet, the issue, including in the eyes of the European Commission, is that this doesn't take potential future needs into account.

"The idea is that even if 5G or a faster broadband connection doesn't currently offer anything particularly new, services may emerge in the future that require a faster connection," the daily writes. "You can look at the issue this way — businesses aren't currently offering and won't develop new solutions in the future because Estonia doesn't offer a suitable, i.e. fast enough, internet connection for new services."

According to Siim Sikkut, who until early this year served as undersecretary of communications and state information systems at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, 5G coverage or high-speed fiberoptic aren't a target in their own right — the key is that new things can be developed based on and with the help of this high-speed connectivity.

Should Estonia continue to fall behind as it currently is, that will mean that new products will reach us more slowly and later than in the Netherlands or Denmark, for example.

Telecom market leader Telia, meanwhile, acknowledges that the country has an issue with 5G connectivity, but is blaming the state for dragging on issuing the frequency licenses that were required to start building the necessary infrastructure for 5G rollout and noting that it had repeatedly drawn attention in recent years to the risk Estonia faced in lagging on its 5G development.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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