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Broadband fights poverty and inequality

Broadband is a transmission system that ensures better access to global data networks and permits managing data exchange in a more extensive and faster way. It is a driving force for the competitive growth of a country, both in terms of technological development and new jobs.

Still a long way to go

In Italy, the road towards the development of broadband access is still long. To date, according to data published by Ernest & Young, optical fibre only reaches 14% of Italian municipalities with the biggest percentage in the Campania region (40%) and the lowest in the Abruzzo region, with only 2% of towns and cities covered. Our country then is still far from joining the 5 most “broadband ready” group which, according to The Media Institute is made up of the United States, South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom and France.

Broadband and social challenges in Africa

Globally, it is interesting to note that broadband access is increasingly a major tool for overcoming poverty and social inequality. At the moment the countries with the highest percentage of individuals with broadband access in relation to the total population are mainly European, while Asia is mobile-access leader.

Africa’s future also travels on broadband, a decisive factor for economic take-off and the digitization of the continent. Nigeria ranks highest among the countries investing in broadband access, recently followed by Rwanda and Tunisia. The development of broadband access in these countries is not accidental. In fact, these three countries have a high propensity for development in the service sector, banking, information technology and logistics system, telecommunications and international transport. Such areas require advanced communication systems and a large access network available in major towns and cities such as Lagos, Kigali and Tunis.

Italy invests in Africa

An increasing number of Italian companies, such as VueTel Italia, consider the African market, from the agricultural to the digital sectors, to be full of potential. VuBlog offers a brief outline of some experiences and data that can help in understanding and getting to know this new business horizon.

Africa, Italy and geopolitics

Today, more than ever, economic and geopolitical events are closely related. Even more so if a key sector such as agriculture and a particular continent such as Africa are at the centre of the debate. The Italian Minister for Agricultural Policies Maurizio Martina is also convinced of this. In an interview with the news agency AGI he underlined how Italy – Africa agricultural cooperation “has a flywheel effect on peace and stability”.

Snapp, the Italo-African digital store

Snapp, a digital store for smartphone and tablet applications, is an example of an Italian company that has been successful in Africa in the field of new technologies. This start-up’s team is capable of offering high quality rapid service, ensuring the development of an app fine-tuned to customer needs in just 12 hours. Thus, Snapp managed to win a prize at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 in Nairobi.

E4Impact

The objective of E4Impact, a project of the Catholic University of Milan, is to promote the development of Italian companies in Africa. The initiative also aims to establish new social enterprises directly on the spot. So far five countries have been chosen to take part in the experience (Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone) but the goal is to increase the number of countries involved in the near future. 

Italy in South Africa

How much do Italian companies invest in South Africa? Today the figure is around 1 billion euro, at least according to the calculations of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade. And the amount could grow, given the considerable potential of the area. The most interesting possibilities for development are in the field of infrastructure, green energy and agriculture.

Sicily could revive Italy’s role in telecommunications

The Mediterranean is the world’s main telecommunications hub.

Sicily in particular has five submarine communications cable landing stations. Today there are 18 submarine communications cables with landing points in this region that come from the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and North America. The main station is at Mazara del Vallo where 9 cables have landing points, followed by Catania (5), Palermo (2), Pozzallo and Trapani (1). Sicily has always been a geographical meeting point between West and East, but the lack of terrestrial cables to connect the submarine cables with the most important European backbone cabling systems such as Frankfurt, London and Paris has been the main obstacle to Sicily establishing itself and taking full advantage of its potential, together with the absence of free competition.

This situation has clearly favoured the emergence of other international data traffic hubs such as Marseilles, which is the most strategic and best served hub in the Mediterranean. In fact, several data centres in competition with each other have been established in Marseilles. Investment in networks connecting the communications cable stations has been significant and has involved most of the international operators, such as Telecom Egypt, the American company Verizon and the Indian company Tata. The success of Marseilles is linked to a number of factors the most important of which is that Marseilles is a true open system, a technological centre of excellence where telecommunication companies compete freely.

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There are also other countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean that could provide opportunities for the creation of new technological centres of excellence and for the development of new infrastructure projects in the Mediterranean area.  Libya, for example, before the explosion of the Arab spring in February 2011, with the Libyan telecommunications company L.P.T.I.C. was developing an ambitious project to connect sub-Saharan Africa with the Mediterranean area. In this perspective, the new Mediterranean Darnah (now under the control of the so-called Islamic State) cable-landing station was realized, the Tripoli station enlarged and the Tobruk station is being realized. In the south of the Sahara desert the terrestrial backbone cabling system to Niger and Sudan, connecting both the Horn of Africa and West Africa, are being completed. This project could be resumed once the country returns to peace, which we hope will very soon.

But things could change in Italy too.

In Sicily the Open Hub Med project is being established with the objective of creating a neutral technological platform in Carini (Palermo), open to telecommunications operators worldwide, which is fully integrated with all major submarine cables that cross the Mediterranean and the terrestrial cables that, from Palermo, run the entire length of Italy, reaching the main telecommunications hubs in Europe and the world. The initiative is not in competition with Marseilles. In fact, it would like to complement and operate in close synergy with Marseilles, with the goal of offering telecommunications companies diversified routes and improvements in terms of quality and overall competitiveness. The next few years will be decisive for evaluating the attractiveness of this project and the effective competitiveness of the Italian market.

Giovanni Ottati

CEO – VueTel Italia

FLAG, from Japan to the United Kingdom, via Italy

FLAG, otherwise known as Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, is one of the world’s most important submarine cables. Running the length of 28,000 km, it travels from Japan to the United Kingdom, passing via Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean, reaching as many as 14 countries.

FLAG: 28 thousand kilometres bringing Asia and Europe closer

The importance and magnitude of FLAG’s size are reflected in its numbers. The cable runs along a distance of 28 thousand kilometres, 27 thousand of which are submarine and approximately a thousand of which are terrestrial (in Egypt and Thailand). Along its journey, it passes through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; it runs along the entire south-east Asiatic coast, the north-eastern coast of Africa and the north-western coast of Europe. In this long crossing, with its 17 landing points, it reaches 14 different countries and three continents. It is able to transport more than 120 thousand voice channels at a speed of 10 Gbit/s from one part of the globe to another. Powered by Global Cloud Xchange, it became operational in 1997 and still today is a strategic hub in the international network.

The Mediterranean at the heart

The passage of FLAG through the Mediterranean is one of the factors which makes this area central to telecommunications throughout the world. After passing the Suez Canal, the cable heads towards Italy, stopping at Palermo (Carini), and then towards Spain with a stop in Estepona. There are only two landing points which allow the entire basin to be cut across. Furthermore, in Palermo, one of the main Italian hubs, it meets another important cable: the SeaMeWe4, which joins Marseille to Singapore. The Mediterranean is therefore a crucial hub in the north-south and east-west routes. This is why many international companies are looking carefully at this area and investing in order to place their infrastructural outposts.

Palermo, the Sicilian hub that brings East and West together

Palermo is one of the five TLC hubs in Sicily, an international transit point for undersea internet cables. Two strategic lines pass through this county town, connecting Asia and Europe. Also for this reason, Carini, in the province of Palermo, was chosen as the headquarters of the “Open Hub Med” project, in which VueTel Italia has participations, to construct a neutral hub, open to all carriers from around the world. 

Palermo at the centre: FLAG and SeaMeWe4

Palermo, together with Mazara del Vallo, Catania, Trapani and Pozzallo, is one of the hubs that make Sicily a crossroads for global telecommunications. There are 18 cables reaching the shores of the island, and some are capable of connecting strategic hubs. In particular, Palermo is a stopping point for two amongst the most important lines that connect Asia and Europe, the FLAG Europe-Asia and SeaMeWe 4. FLAG is a cable that starts from Miura (Japan) and, after a journey of 28,000 kilometres, arrives in Porthcurno (United Kingdom), crossing the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean sea, and, indeed, touching Sicily. SeaMeWe 4, instead, with its 20,000 km, unites Singapore with Marseille (France), always passing through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.

Strategic Mediterranean

In 2016, Palermo, and, specifically Carini, will be protagonist of a new Italian project, which will involve also VueTel Italia, amongst other firms. It is Open Hub Med, a neutral hub for the exchange of data traffic, open to the major international carriers. The choice aims at enhancing the international importance of Sicily (and Italy) in the telecommunications network, also given its strategical geographical position. The Mediterranean, already for a few years, has been at the centre of the attention of the most important international companies, because it is a natural basin, able to connect Europe to Asia and Africa, the two continents where the TLC market is experiencing the highest growth rhythms. To manage this area, therefore, means to carve a role a prime importance in the global arena. A chance that Italy needs to try to exploit in the best possible way.

Italy 2.0, its enemy is digital spread

VuBlog offers a press review dedicated to the theme of digital spread in Italy.  Italy is far from the world’s top league; broadband needs public and private investments to grow and keep abreast with the most advanced economies.  

Digital spread in Italy

Massimo Sideri investigates for Corriere.it the theme of digital spread that separates Italy from the most advanced economies. A separation that has grown over time, for the lack of investments and of long-term vision. The country risks falling behind just at the time when the Mediterranean becomes a strategic place for world telecommunications.

The digital agenda is struggling along

Started in 2012, the Digital Agenda had the ambitious goal of bringing a new wave of digitalisation to Italy. Agendadigitale.eu gives a summary of the situation and detects many delays and issues. But a positive turning point is possible.

Broadband in chaos?

Alessandro Longo, director of Agendadigitale.eu, published an article on Wired in which he criticises the broadband status in Italy. The problem, he states, is not the accumulated delay, which is reducing, but the absence of a “global vision” to guide the development policies in the sector.

Positive signs for broadband development

An article of “Il Sole 24 Ore” shows the lights and shadows in Italy’s I-Com profile. The Institute for Competitiveness places Italy at the 25th place amongst European nations for broadband development.  The good news is the speed of growth: Italy is amongst the “fast movers”, the countries that show signs of higher dynamism.

The initiatives of the Italian government: pros and cons

The online newspaper dedicates two articles to the public initiatives directed at contrasting digital spread. The Government has decided to allocate 2.2 billion Euros for broadband development, but the action plan does not fully convince the experts.

VueTel Italia is one of the companies supporting the project Open Hub Med

Open HUB Med will be located at Italtel in Palermo Carini. Within a short space of time, the structure aims to become second centre for Italian telecommunications after Milan. The Hub will be operational by the end of 2015, with further growth forecast in 2016, through the opening of a second office in Bari. The project aims to ensure Italy is at the centre of submarine telecommunications routes linking Asia and Africa with Northern Europe and the US.

From the early beginning VueTel Italia has expressed a strong interest in the project recognising in it the same vision that has guided the Company since its foundation: building bridges to and from the African continent.

The project aims to revive Italy and in particular the international telecommunications sector by taking advantage of the country’s geographical location to make it a major participant in Mediterranean markets. Sicily plays a pivotal role in the global network of submarine cables by virtue of its strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean. All these are key success factors in building a digital bridge between Africa and the rest of the world with Open Hub Med.

A press release on the initiative will follow.

Open Hub Med: a truly neutral and open Hub for the Internet Traffic Exchange opens in Sicily, Italy

The project aims to make Italy the main Submarine cable hub for the Mediterranean Basin and will be operational within Q4 2015.

Milan, July 28th 2015 – Interoute, Mandarin, MIX and TelecityGroup Italia, the main promoters of the Open Hub Med (OHM) project, have chosen Italtel’s Carini site as the location where the second Italian Telecommunication Pole, after Milan’s, will be developed. This new TLC business hot spot will be operational within Q4 of 2015 and the project will see a second expansion phase with the opening of a node in Bari, on the east coast of southern Italy, within 2016. This ambitious technological project – merging an open and neutral site with one of the major European Internet Exchange – has already gained the participation of NGI, SUPERNAP Italia and Italtel as technological partner, while KPNQwest Italia, Vuetel Italia and other operators of primary importance have announced their intention to join. The new site will start with 1,000 sqm. data and interconnection center space, which can be easily expanded up to 10,000 sqm. .Given the presence of a large number of operators since the launch phase, the new Sicily hub has the ambition to become the natural collector and interconnection point for the 135,000 km of Submarine cables currently reaching Sicily island. Thanks to the presence of MIX, Milano Internet eXchange, recreating the collocation and interconnection ecosystem of Milan (Via Caldera Hub), Open Hub Med will not be a mere Landing Station facility, but it will have a strategic role such as other internationally recognized landing and interconnection points, like Marseille’s in France. The “tri-pole Palermo-Bari-Milan” will be the new privileged route for the internet traffic coming from Asia, Middle East and Africa regions heading to Northern Europe, re-launching Italy’s role within the Global Telecommunication business.

Open Hub Med will offer optimal interconnection conditions among operators in strategic locations in Southern Italy. These points are natural aggregation areas for Internet backbones in the Mediterranean basin able to guarantee key advantages like minimizing wet capacity cable sections and lower network latencies compared to other European interconnection sites. OHM is based on an open multi-stakeholder governance model, and it will be the only Sicilian hub able to guarantee real Neutrality and Openness to every network provider, mixing a strong global/international attitude and solid roots in the Italian and Sicilian territory.

All the players who have decided to invest in this initiative hold the solid record of having promoted an open telecommunication market in Italy over the last 15 years, and firmly believe that this new joint venture is a great opportunity to enhance Italy’s strategic geographical positioning in the submarine cable global scenario, generating new technological value for Sicily and Italy as a whole. This important initial investment is expected to generate new investments in the countrywide telecommunication infrastructure, technologies and fiber optic adoption with beneficial outcomes for the regional economics as well as boosting the digitalization process of the entire country, which is one of the main points in Mr. Renzi’s, Italian PM, agenda.