06 May 2009

Romania: Taking fiber to the streets, one tree at a time

27 04 2009 - I’m visiting the world’s third fastest broadband country after South Korea and Japan. That’s right, I’m in Romania.

Here, a government stimulus package did not create a high-speed broadband infrastructure. Instead, groups of tech-savvy neighbors just started stringing fiber optic cabling between buildings and trees. They became micro-ISPs by default.

Today, Romania’s 800-odd reƫea de bloc and reƫea de cartier (apartment block and neighborhood networks) are consolidating, but the patchwork of home-grown fiber remains.

Perhaps it is not pretty to look at, as these pictures suggest. But so what? Almost half of Romania’s existing fixed broadband subscribers now enjoy connectivity at speeds vastly exceeding 5Mbps, according Akamai traffic statistics. The problem is that broadband penetration doesn’t extend far from main urban areas.

Considering the Pirate Bay debacle, it’s also worth noting that Romania’s neighborhood fiber networks were built explicitly for peer-to-peer file sharing. That’s partly why many Romanian broadband packages are tiered by geographic access.

For about $15 a month you’ll get a local (neighborhood) bandwidth speed of 100Mbps, a metropolitan (city) speed of 50Mbps and an ‘Internet’ (national & international) speed of 10Mbps.

True, cable companies RCS&RDS and UPC and are trying to curb Romania’s considerable torrent habits. They are buying up the micro-ISPs and integrating mobile and TV propositions. But Romania’s unique genesis has bred a content-thirsty consumer irrespective of fixed or mobile platform.

This will drive a tripling of Romania’s broadband penetration between now and 2012, according to Yankee Group’s global Anywhere Index of broadband lines.

Let regulators try to prescribe how high-speed broadband infrastructures are built and managed. But Romania’s continuing journey proves that there is indeed no one route to - or from - Rome.

Source: Yankee Group Blog

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