Telecommuting has become a lifeline for the working world during the coronavirus lockdown and the periods of restricted mobility that followed. It also changed the outlook for the sparsely populated areas of rural Spain, known as the la españa vacía or “empty Spain”.
Remote workers need a good Internet connection and good mobile phone coverage, requirements that are traditionally more difficult to meet in more remote and less populated places. However, municipalities that have favored online connectivity have managed to attract a number of teleworkers over the past year. Now, some of the most remote corners of Spain have high-speed fiber optic connection for every household as well as 5G coverage, a luxury for which the vast majority of European capitals would give anything.
Here is a list of the 15 best-connected villages of less than 2,000 inhabitants in Spain, according to the telecommunications company Telefónica: Fresno de Sayago (Zamora), 170 inhabitants; Atrenzana de Abajo (La Rioja), 230 inhabitants; Casas de Don Gómez (Cáceres), 289 inhabitants; Anguciana (La Rioja), 433 inhabitants; Táliga (Badajoz), 665 inhabitants; San Esteban del Valle (Ávila), 720 inhabitants; Campezo (Álava) 1,040 inhabitants; Ainzon (Zaragoza), 1,077 inhabitants; Valverde del Majano (Segovia), 1,095 inhabitants; Casalarreina (La Rioja), 1,098 inhabitants; Agoncillo (La Rioja), 1,102 inhabitants; Santa María de la Alameda (Madrid), 1,254 inhabitants; Labastida (Álava), 1,454 inhabitants; Arcos (Burgos), 1,734 inhabitants and Buitrago de Lozoya (Madrid), 1,884 inhabitants.
Thanks to their broadband connection, the inhabitants of Táliga (Badajoz), a municipality of less than 700 inhabitants, can now manage their prescriptions online, as well as their appointments with the doctor or the papers of the health center, of the school or town hall. . Like Táliga, a number of small Spanish towns have better mobile phone coverage, better fiber optic connectivity and even 5G than those in other European countries like Italy, Germany, the UK and the United Kingdom. Poland, according to data from FTTH Europe Council.
“The most important thing is that good internet coverage allows us to work from home and do a lot of things that took us twice as long as they could only be done over the phone or in person,” says Vicente Mateos, mayor of Casas de Don Gomez.
A high-speed connection has also been a boon for Edorta Loma, who returned two years ago to his hometown of Santa Cruz de Campezo, a village of just over 1,000 people in the lava mountains in Basque Country, to open Arrea, a restaurant focused on local ingredients.
As connectivity improved over the past year, Spain has seen an increasing tendency for city dwellers to move to their second homes in more rural areas, and a much greater use of residential internet connections due to the boom. remote study and teleworking. According to Telefónica data, traffic on Movistar’s IP network between January and December 2020 increased by 25%.
In Buitrago de Lozoya, in the region of Madrid, online traffic increased by 167% between January 2020 and March 2021. And in the villages of Anguciana and Casalarreina, located in one of the first municipalities of La Rioja to install fiber optic connectivity for its entire network, usage was also recorded above normal, in part due to the influx of second home owners from the neighboring Basque Country.
The 5G challenge
Mobile phones also play a decisive role because thanks to the new generation of mobile networks, 5G, mobile internet coverage is now comparable to the fixed broadband network.
Here is the ranking of the small towns with the best 5G connections: Hoz de Jaca (Huesca), 71 inhabitants; Navatejares (Ávila), 80; Riu de Cerdanya (Lleida), 111; Prádena de Rincón (Madrid), 127; San Miguel de Aguayo (Cantabria), 159; Sojuela (La Rioja), 227; Peraleda de San Román (Cáceres), 283; Arrieta (Vizcaya), 558; Ciruelos (Toledo), 679; and Monteagudo (Navarre), 1,145 inhabitants.
“Planning for network expansion takes into account certain traffic patterns that are repeated each year,” explains Javier Gutiérrez, Director of Strategy and Network Development at Telefónica Spain. “In 2020, these models deviated from the norm due to Covid-19 and there were unusual increases in voice and data use.”
In September 2020, the four national operators in Spain – Telefónica, Orange, Vodafone and MásMóvil – launched their first 5G commercial services, but only in the largest cities, with reduced coverage (less than 30% of the population) and with very limited technical capacities.
Internet connections using 5G will be 100 times faster than today (although at present the technology only achieves average speeds of 10 times 4G). This means that data downloads will be even faster than with today’s fiber optic networks. To take an example, a 1 GB movie will be downloaded in less than 10 seconds.
english version by Heather galloway.