Fiber optic infrastructures are being born in four regions of the country, which took advantage of an opportunity to finance the European Commission’s previous framework program (via POSC). Together, they represent an investment of 30 million euros, co-financed with 45% and a thousand kilometers of network that can assume a relevant role in the country’s coverage objectives with new Internet access infrastructures, capable of offering more and better services.
Évora, Trás-os-Montes and Minho are the regions involved in the four projects. Following the timetable, they completed the work of creating the infrastructure at the end of 2008 and are now in the phase of testing the network and preparing the processes that will take the fiber, first to the network of partners that make up each consortium (entities linked to the municipalities, universities, etc.) and then to the companies and population of the regions, in a logic of open exploitation, in which any operator can create an offer and provide its services.
With slight differences in the pace of operation of the network, all projects are in a phase of testing the infrastructure. However, the regions of Minho and Évora have the benefit of advancing the process of choosing the entity that will manage the network simultaneously with the tender that chose the partner to pass the fiber.
In Évora, all operators were invited to bid and several showed interest in the process, but only PT reached the end of the procedure. At the moment, as explained by the head of the Association of Municipalities of the District of Évora responsible for the project, Luís Cavaco, details are being worked out on the conditions for operating the infrastructure. The concession should be made in about a month and a half.
In the region of Valimar and Vale do Minho – where the networks are interconnected through two rings – the option fell on the creation of intermunicipal companies, through public-private partnerships (in both DST is the main private partner with close participation from the 50%).
In the three regions, tests on the core infrastructure are already underway. In the case of Évora, the expectation is that the network will start to become operational for the 22 entities that make up the consortium from March or April. In Minho, connections to some schools and entities depending on the municipalities have already started to be made, but there is still a need to define safety standards and work on the final aspects of making connections operational.
Alexandre Ramos, responsible for intermunicipal companies, expects that in three months it will be possible to activate calls over FTTH. This means entering a new phase of the project, which foresees an investment for this year of 10 million euros in fiber to the home in the region. Since November, the 11 municipalities of Minho have been aligning needles and setting priorities in terms of expanding the core network.
The Trás-os-Montes region, which is in the project through the Association of Municipalities of the Transmontana Hotlands, has also started testing the network that has been built since the middle of last year, but is scheduled to start this technical phase on 15 February , as Manuel Miranda explains. For the next meeting of the Board of Directors of AMTQT, the decision regarding the infrastructure exploitation model is also scheduled.
Interest of operators
Also in terms of the interest shown by the different operators in the infrastructures, there are differences between regions. Alexandre Ramos is the one who presents more optimistic indicators, ensuring that the interest shown in the infrastructure of Minho, which potentially can serve a total of 270 thousand inhabitants, which include between 30 and 35 thousand companies and about 20 business / industrial parks , has been high.
Operators have the chance here, as in other regions, to take fiber to the customer’s home taking advantage of the basic infrastructure of the community network, when it serves their interests, preventing an investment that the defenders of the shared model of fiber development rank as the most significant in the entire process; or from the core infrastructure to reach the customer’s home through ADSL or other technologies, existing or to be created.
Luís Cavaco, does not recognize the market’s interest in the exploitation of the network that will endow the 14 municipalities of Évora with 480 kilometers of fiber and admits that part of the explanation for the weak interest that operators have shown in the process may be related to the low population density of the district, with just over 170 thousand inhabitants.
Cristina A. Ferreira