Yesterday, the 8th Telecommuncation annual meeting organized by the technical telecommunications engineers association took place. It was a very interesting event and this year one of the hot topics was the development of new services and infrastructures, and more specifically what they call digital cities.
First of all, I do not like the name digital city because one thing is to digitalize content (from the analog domain to the digital domain) and another one very different to communicate and exchange information remotelly. Actually, we could all exchange DVDs and hard drives and we would be in a digital city… Thus, instead of digital cities, I will use the word connected cities.
One of the points that were raised yesterday was the fact that with the present infrastructure available (less than 1Mbps, and highly asymmetric) we can not expect to become a connected country in the short term, and before talking about services, we need to talk about infrastructures.
The problem here is that the investment is huge and after the investment of the government in 2009 to mitigate the impact of the crisis (I will not enter into whether the money was spent in the correct way) for 2010 the investment from the public sector, although present, will not be enough to change the economic model. Telecom operators are not going to invest heavily either so the only development that I see happening in 2010 will be utilities and municipalities developing local NGNs.
This is not superb good news, but it is better than nothing. Thus, maybe 2010 is not the year of fiber in Spain (following yesterday’s post) but at least, I expect some projects to start happening.
And this is the main point of today’s post: if those municipal and utility-driven projects go ahead and they develop their own access infrastructure (based on fiber, of course), how will they connect to the core network to really become a connected city and not just a digital village?
At present, there is an important project lead by the catalan government to deploy fiber across Catalonia, but, will this fiber be ready when the municipality has its access network deployed? Who else can offer fiber connectivity to the village at a decent and competitive price?
Telefonica, the incumbent, is the only one that reach every single town with fiber, but I do not expect them offering it cheap and I can not see connecting an FTTH network to an array of ADSL routers… Wireless through radio-links is also an option but is just a transient solution.
Thus, it is very important that together with NGNs access networks, now that it is clear that intervention from the public sector is required for the development on NGNs, capacity services or dark fiber infrastructure to connect towns and villages are offered by the public sector or by wholesale operators at competitive prices.
This necessity has already been detected in other countries, like in Australia and New Zealand, which are starting country-wide broadband plans.
Anyway, we all know that here we go a little bit slower…