With a view to better understanding and attaining greater knowledge of important matters in areas overseen by ICP-ANACOM, a series of studies were promoted by the Authority during 2008.
Of these, the following are of particular note:
- Publication of studies on the evaluation of the Internet access service;
- Next Generation Networks (NGN);
Assessment of the Internet access service
The study published in February 2008 presents the main results of the study assessing the overall quality of service of Internet access via broadband - supported over ADSL and cable distribution networks - from the user's perspective. This study was carried out by ICP-ANACOM in partnership with MARKTEST and with the support of CONVEX consultants between 11 October and 13 November 2007.
Among the results, it was noted that the indicator "speed of downloading the total pages of a website" recorded significantly higher values when the target ISPs are national than when dealing with pages hosted abroad. Also in the transfer of files, the average speed of downloading is lower when it comes to measurements for target ISPs which are international, which may be related to the interconnection bandwidth available to these ISPs. The speed of downloading for the transfer of files by HTTP (HTTP file transfer) obtained higher values, however, when compared with the speed of downloading of total pages of a website, as mentioned above, constituting the best indicator among those considered in the study with a view to assessing bandwidth actually available.
A working group was also set up with representatives of ISPs, Fundação para a Computação Científica (Nacional Foundation for National Scientific Computing) and Direcção Geral do Consumidor (Directorate General for the Consumer) to study the problems associated with the atypical behaviour of certain Internet users, commonly referred to as heavy users, who have a negative impact on the performance of networks.
Next Generation Networks (NGN)
Given the impact that the deployment of NGN is expected to have on the promotion of the information and knowledge society and on the economy of the business of operators, ICP-ANACOM sponsored a study on this issue which was carried out by the international consultants (Ovum Consulting), covering in particular (i) characterization of the demand for NGN-based services; (ii) characterization of existing networks in Portugal and their future development, (iii) the costs, investments and revenues associated with the development of NGN; (iv) the models for interconnection and co-installation between operators; (v) info-inclusion; (vi) the international scenario with respect to NGN deployment; (vii) access to buildings; and (viii) regulatory approaches.
The study published in late June 2008, alongside the public consultation carried out by ICP-ANACOM on the regulatory approach to NGA, which made a contribution to an analysis of the key issues it raised, showed that the development of NGN in Portugal was, in general, in line with the experience of other EU countries. The study concludes that the future seems to be driven primarily by growth in residential broadband users, whose numbers are estimated to reach 2.6 million in 2012 (representing a penetration rate of 85 percent in terms of classic resident families) and by the offers of television over IP 1, which should have an equal number of users by 2012.
This study also analyzed various scenarios for NGN evolution with different technological alternatives in terms of total or partial installation of fibre between the operator's exchange and the subscriber and with different forms of investment, presenting the different results in terms of operational costs (OPEX) and investment expenditure (CAPEX).
As regards the possibilities for co-installation of equipment among active operators, the main alternatives were identified in terms of street level distribution frames and the potential technical challenges (e.g. interference - "cross-talk"- between local sub-loops unbundled by different operators, physical problems of availability of space in conduits and limitations in the use of space in public places).
With respect to info-inclusion, it was concluded that in the medium term NGN could increase the existing gap between those who have access to more sophisticated access technologies and those who do not, insofar as operators will give priority to coverage by new transmission technologies in those areas which are the most profitable. As a result, new services available over NGN may not be made available from the outset in rural and remote areas.
The study also gives consideration to different measures such as public-private partnerships, subsidies or other mechanisms which make fibre optic investment in rural areas more attractive.
With regards to regulation, it was highlighted that it is necessary for the regulator to ensure interconnection and to control the supply of wholesale services, ensuring competition in retail markets, given that the existence of NGN does not in itself shift the focus of the regulator's action.
The study also examines the impact of conditions of access to buildings from a regulatory perspective, noting horizontal and vertical barriers (e.g. negotiations with the condominiums, the viability of the existing infrastructure for the passage of cables, the development of new infrastructure for the provision of fibre at the door of users and distribution of fibre within the home).
With regard to minimizing the horizontal barriers, the study highlighted the particularly favourable situation of Portugal with regard to overcoming these barriers using access to the conduits of the incumbent according to the RCAO, noting, in any case, the need for further actions to minimize the barriers in question and referring in particular to the need to reduce and simplify the licensing of works in the public domain and the need for a global register of infrastructure, which should facilitate the suitable formulation of expansion plans of the different network operators, while minimizing costs.
1 Internet Protocol.