Evolution of next generation access networks (NGA)

ANACOM has released the study "The evolution of NGA" 1, providing an analysis of the current state of deployment of these networks, in light of conditions of demand, access network technologies, the evolution of the regulatory framework at a national and EU level, the "lessons" that can be extracted from international case studies and, of course, the specifics of the situation in Portugal.

It is concluded that the most important issues affecting the deployment of NGA are related to the role played by the State, the intervention of regulatory authorities (NRA) and the strategy of operators, in addition to conditions of demand.

Nationally, the situation is characterized above all by a clear dynamism among operators, by determined and consistent regulatory action and by state incentives for the development of NGA.

In the cases studied, the role of the State is generally sub-divided into two main components:

a) ensuring transparent legislation that promotes investment in NGA throughout the national territory, while at the same time safeguarding a return for operators and conditions for sustainable competition;

b) active participation in the deployment of NGA, both through investment subsidies and by investing directly, particularly in rural and more remote regions, where the business plan carries more risk and future competition based on NGA will be more difficult to achieve. 

The intervention of the NRA, especially in the European Union, ensures, with a transparent, stable and predictable regulatory environment stemming from application of the EU framework and the market analysis process, an appropriate framework for investment across the national territory and the development of healthy competition.

With respect to the strategies followed by operators, it should be noted that, both in Portugal and internationally, and within a framework of rapidly changing user needs, investments seem to be focused on urban centres, where competition is possible and where, in many cases, it is already a reality, both on the initiative of the incumbent and due to the availability of retail offers with higher bandwidth by competing providers.

In terms of overall results, in general, the combination of government initiatives and regulatory measures undertaken have driven operator investments, whereby the number of households cabled with high-speed access already exceeds four million (70% with EuroDOCSIS 3.0 or equivalent and the remaining 30% with optical fibre).

Even while, to date, the majority of investment has been focused on the most densely populated coastal regions, it is expected that NGA concessions awarded in rural areas will soon contribute to the national drive for digital inclusion. 

Nevertheless, it is expected that NGN/NGA will contribute to the creation of a significant number of skilled jobs in Portugal, in addition to temporary jobs associated with the infrastructure deployment phase.

1 "Next Generation Access Networks".

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