sábado, 2 de febrero de 2019

Broadband in Viladecans: a fiber optics challenge

We analyze the Viladecans broadband case in collaboration with Laura Martín Encinas. Nowadays, in the Broadband Society, it is unquestionable that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the basic fundaments of the XXI century society. Getting into this ICT, the networks, and more specifically broadband, are having an impact so revolutionary in our society just as the transport or electric net had in the past. This is due to the broadband internet service is the most used form of Internet access thanks to its high access speed. Moreover, it is usually commercialized with other important services such as fixed and mobile phone service or television. 
Just to give a specific definition of broadband, we have to know that this service offers to the users a permanent data connection and a high transmission capacity to upload and download files by a determined terminal like for example a laptop, a mobile phone or a television. It is offered in four different forms: DSL, fiber optic, cable and satellite. In the present article it will be analyzed which and how is the broadband in the town of Viladecans, belonging to the region of El Baix Llobregat. But first, it will be important to have a general look on this important net in Spain and also specifically in Catalonia.

According to the last annual report of broadband coverage in Spain published by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, the purpose of the General Law of Telecommunications is to achieve the universalization of the access to the broadband Internet to 30 Mbps in 2020. Unfortunately, that objective is far away from the reality because more than 30% of homes don’t have access to the Internet with more of 10 Mbps. This is due to the high price of broadband in our country in relation to the rest of the EU. This situation is much worse in the rural areas of the country, where the 44% of the population doesn’t have access to any type of broadband. However, Spain is in the 40th position in the WorldWide Ranking of countries with access to the Internet, leaving behind countries like Ireland or Hungary.
In Catalonia, the situation is way much better in the broadband society. Our autonomous community is the 3rd land with more coverage of new generation broadband (fiber optic), exactly 83,16%, above the state average, which is 76%. This includes around 1.050.000 Catalans of 606 houses which have this new and important technology. This great achievement has been accomplished thanks to the New Generation Broadband Extension Program (PEBA-NGA, its initials in Spanish), which facilitated the access to the networks of high speed broadband to a population of 6,27 millions of inhabitants. Catalonia and also Andalusia have been the communities where more aid has been granted to new generational broadband extension projects.
If we go deeper in one of those cities of Catalonia that have the latest version of broadband, we find that Viladecans is a pioneer in this sector. This city, located 15 minutes away from Barcelona and between the international airport of El Prat de Llobregat and Castelldefels, has a population of 65.000 inhabitants. The department of ICT of the town hall has around 450 employees and manages a lot of technical services for the citizen linked to the Smart City project. Viladecans is considered an area of citizen innovation and incubator of ideas and projects to promote technological learning.
In this ambit, Viladecans bet on high speed broadband and, in particular, on fiber optic with the network called W!CABLE. According to the mayor of the town “the Internet is a right and not a privilege”. For that reason, this infrastructure of the W!CABLE is an open network of new generation telecommunications based on fiber optic deployment technology to the home, which allows the provision of high connectivity services, it means ultra-fast broadband up to 1 GBps. The main aim of this municipal net is to provide the best quality and competitive broadband to all homes, companies, business and facilities of the city. Nowadays, approximately the 50% of the inhabitants of Viladecans can benefit themselves with any of the W!CABLE services, according to the conditions that best suit each situation and with any of the four operators that provides it: Adamo, Parlem, the Xarxa Oberta de Catalunya (XOC) and APFUTURA

The town hall developed this infrastructure in 2010 so that it could offer to all the communications operators the possibility of providing their services through W!CABLE. At that point, they built a neutral operator, which means that it can be used by multiple operators at the same time. In this 1st phase, they collaborated only with Orange and Adamo and had an impact of the 40%. Secondly, they extended the project, not only to the principal points of the city, but also to the business park and interurban companies, reaching 50 companies connected with them. Finally, the 3rd phase in July 2015 focused on the town hall making a concession of the management and growth of the network to the company Overon, from the Mediapro Group. They were expected to make an investment of 4 million of euros so that the W!CABLE could be extended progressively to practically all the corners of Viladecans. Moreover, they committed themselves to manage the network during the following 15 years.
The results have been great since that year: in 2015 W!CABLE was active in 15.352 points, whereas the last year was active in 21.000 points. In addition, it connected more than the 90% of the homes, business and shops of Viladecans. W!CABLE remains being municipal property and continues working as a neutral operator. Those achievements show that the city has an open network to any operator who wants to offer their services of Internet, phone or television, which involves providing more competitive and varied offers to the population. In that way, we can see that W!CABLE guarantees from 100 symmetric Mbps to any needed, services adapted to the needs of each company and access to business from any area of the city. For that reason, today around 11.000 homes and more than a hundred companies can contract that services through any of the operators that use W!CABLE.
However, W!CABLE is not the only network of fiber optic in Viladecans. There are telecommunications operators, such as Movistar, Vodafone or Orange, that are also deploying fiber optic in Viladecans, which contributes to the city having one the widest offer of telecommunications services in the entire state. According to an article of La Vanguardia, Viladecans is the only municipality of the area with a double management model in this type of infrastructures, in such way that it multiplies the offers and services to which the neighbors and businessmen of the city can accede.
In addition to all this important information about the W!CABLE in Viladecans, it is remarkable to highlight one important achievement in the education sector and that is the implementation of this network in the day-care centers, schools, high schools of the city (public or private), the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas and the Centro de Formación de Adultos. From the high direction, they have called this concept the W!escuela: it consists of an education center that has an Internet connection of 100 Mbps with fiber optic and around 160 blackboards distributed throughout its classrooms. The commitment of the city council was to promote technology in schools and, for that reason, they have already connected all the educational centers to the Internet with the most advanced digital tools.
In this educational implantation, the fiber optic plays an important role: it improves the operation of the digital blackboards because with more speed they can access to a higher quality multimedia contents such as video files, high resolution images or more sophisticated educational applications; also improves the management of the center in terms of energy efficiency because it’s possible to track the consumption of water and light in real time and remotely to apply corrective measures in order to save energy and for doing that it requires ultra-fast broadband.
In conclusion, we have seen that Viladecans is a very developed city in the technological area, always looking to the welfare of its inhabitants and with a very personal brand of broadband, the W!CABLE. 
We analyze broadband evolution (here, the Viladecans 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 XXIV Cable and Broadband Catalonia Congress (9-10 April 2019, Barcelona).


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