sábado, 17 de marzo de 2018

Broadband in Greece? Better late than never

Broadband is necessary for all the countries. We analyze the case of Greece in collaboration with Athanasia Karastogianni.Broadband was and still is, since the moment of its appearance, the most common form of accessing the internet due to the high speeds it can provide to its users. Before broadband there was the dial-up. The dial-up still exists and is a very cheap solution but of course it cannot be compared with the faster broadband.

From 1990 to 2003 Greece was relying to PSTN/ISDN modem dial-up. Of course this kind of connection was innovatory at the time but it was extremely slow and eliminated the user from other abilities, like the telephone.

According to the National Committee of Telecommunications and Posts in Greece (ΕΕΤΤ in Greek), a connection is broadband when it has to main characteristics. First when it offers unceasing access to the internet and second when it has high pace of data transmission so that the user can access interactive services of rich content. That unceasing access is what makes the clear and big difference comparing to a connection with dial-up.
In the October of 2003 the ADSL was launched in Greece by OTE (todays COSMOTE) and right now ADSL2+ and VDSL2 are the main broadband standard. As quite every new technology, the development of ADSL in Greece was different and not that quick from those of the other European countries as a result of the low use of PCs, the expensive internet equipment and relatively low per capita GDP
OTE is the biggest national investor in new technologies. Since this was the organization which launched ADSL, right now they are focusing on changing the copper network with fiber optics so that more consumers can have access to speeds VDSL up to 50 Mbps. At first COSMOTE had the exclusive rights of telecommunications in Greece but after 1994 and with the expansion of the market, more companies took permission to offer that kind of services.
Thanks to the local loop unbundling and the liberalization of the market many private companies can use the physical wire connections and they usually offer to the customers packages that are cheaper than the ones COSMOTE offers. Of course this has to do with the high competition but also with the diversity in the quality. So as the years passed by, many companies started offering these services. Some of them have gone bankrupt and others have merged. Nowadays the main DSL providers are: COSMOTE, CYTA Hellas, Forthnet, Vodafone and WIND Hellas. Due to financial problems CYTA Hellas is probably going to merge with another company and Forthnet has also issues, which will probably lead to its closing. On the 18th of January and after an international contest was decided that Vodafone is the Preferred Bidder for CYTA Hellas. These latest developments are leading the market of Greece back to the time where many few companies controlled the telecommunications, since from the 30 companies that existed in 2000 until April of 2018 there probably will be only three.
For the use of the broadband services are required an active telephone line at the place of the customer and additional the existence of the ADSL technology with free spots in a satisfactory distance (around 4-5 kilometers) so that the appropriate speeds can be accomplished. As it is obvious taking into consideration the size of a country, there must be many spots in many places, in order to satisfy the needs of the whole population.
The Greek government has published at its newspaper in October a very important decision over the broadband connection in remote islands. According to this decision, permanent citizens, civil servants and those who work in the army and in security forces, we will have a free connection. The budget of the action is calculated around 3.500.000 euros.
In addition to this, at the end of November of 2017 was completed a very big project of COSMOTE and the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information related to rural broadband. More specific, there were located fiber optics of 12.000 km length to 2.260 remote areas and 323.000 citizens. This effort was rewarded by the European Committee (DG CNECT) at “European Broadband Awards 2017” as the category: “Territorial cohesion in rural and remote areas”.
In Greece the mobile broadband is also very popular especially among professionals and young people. Until now most mobile phones could support 3G mobile broadband but recently the 4G+ has expanded rapidly. This broadband is achieved with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) for downstreams and for upstreams with High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA).
Beyond that, Greece has two satellite internet providers. Hellas Sat which was founded in 2001 and they offer a wide variety of services based on satellite connections and Tooway, a company which is occupied by offering only internet services.
A very interesting internet fact in Greece is the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) which started in 2002, when the ADSL technology was still really new in Greece and now it is one alternative telecommunications network with participatory character. The main difference with internet is that AWMN is a network made from and for its users, in contrast with the vast internet. In addition, the network is based in open software and allows fast speeds and symmetric downloads and uploads.
Athens and Thessaloniki enjoy also a form of fiber-optic communication delivery, the known FTTH (Fiber to the home). In this case, the fiber expands from the source (central office) to the place of the customer. At this area specialize two companies, INALAN, in both cities, and HCN, only in Thessaloniki.
Fastmetrics company has published an interactive map where it appears the speed of internet in each country. According to this map, South Korea is the champion, with an average speed that reaches 26,7Mbps. In Europe the country with the fastest internet is Sweden with 19,1 Mbps. As for Greece, Mbps reached 7,3 on the first semester of 2017.
In the European scale Greece is at the 26th place (from the 28) as considers the exploitation of telecommunication’s and information’s technologies. The economical crisis is a very important reason for the lack of investments on this area. Right now, the Greek Government and the telecommunications companies are trying to get Greece to the Gigabit Society. In order to make this reality it is calculated that Greece needs to invest 2 billion euros, an amount that is difficult to get.
The broadband issue is extremely important for journalists since a survey of Reuters has shown that the vast majority of the population in Greece chooses the internet for its information. Unfortunately, only the 20% of Greek users trust news they read online. Also according to Focus Bari, the penetration of internet in Greek society has reached 82% in ages 13-70 and 92% at the big urban centers. Furthermore, the mobile phone is now the first device in the preference of surfing in the internet and laptops and desktops follow. Of course this has to do with the fact that almost everyone today uses social media.
It is obvious that internet connections define in a great percentage the lives of Greek people and the demand of high speeds will get bigger as the years pass by. Greece has to overcome the economical problems and offer its citizens the quality that is wanted. As for the journalists, they also have to become familiar with the new technologies and try to gain the trust of the users, because as everything shows, internet is the present and the future. 
We analyze international broadband evolution (here, the Dutch case) in this blog, in Research Group about Digital Journalism and Marketing and Broadband and in Research Group on Innovative Monetization Systems of Digital Journalism, Marketing and Tourism (SIMPED), from CECABLE,  Escola Universitària Mediterrani of UdGUPF and Blanquerna-URL, in Twitter (@CECABLEresearch), Google+, in the group of LinkedIn, in the page of LinkedIn, in the group of Facebook, in Instagram (CECABLE), in Pinterest and in this blog. We will go in deep in the XXIII Cable and Broadband Catalonia Congress (10-11 April 2018, Blanquerna Auditorium, Barcelona).

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