Trend commentator: Azerbaijan’s East-West information superhighway project to open direct access to Internet network core

Trend commentator: Azerbaijan’s East-West information superhighway project to open direct access to Internet network core

Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug. 2 /Trend/

Huseyin Veliyev, Trend commentator 

The way that today the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia regions pass is quite significant in their independent development despite the political and economic problems.

Making a start from the general idea of the development of the region and including it in the global system of global economic relations, Azerbaijan once again appeared as the initiator of global-scale project of constructing the information superhighway "East West", which is the beginning to acquire real incarnation.
Azerbaijan's resolution on the project to establish information superhighway "East-West" was adopted by the UN General Assembly late last year.

The UN General Assembly's adoption of a resolution on this project is a great achievement of Azerbaijan, which is a powerful tool in the implementation of the projects and allows attracting additional funding, gives a mandate to Azerbaijan as the coordinator country of the projects both regionally and globally.
The resolution adopted by the UN takes a general recommendation character, and the process of negotiations with the countries to provide resources and opportunities for entering their markets will be conducted based on their interests. Certainly, no country will do something that does not meet its interests. Each country has its own internal and external infrastructure development plans. Nevertheless, a common interest is displayed in this project, particularly by the regional countries.

Eurasia is the "white spot" on the world map. The question is not about the absence of communication lines at all, but about the level of their existence. Network, which is the core of the Internet network (level network-TR1) is virtually absent in the region. There are only six such networks in the world, and they are mostly located in Asia, Western Europe and North America. Each of these networks is an integrated whole network that includes Asia, Europe and North America. These six global networks exchange traffic with each other.

Even large operators like Deutsche Telecom and British Telecom use the network of second level - TR2. A majority of countries in the Eurasian region refers to the networks of the third level - TR3, which have access to the data network through TR2 network.

Despite the fact that the countries of the region have access to international communication channels, lack of networks of the first level is a problem. The project, initiated by Azerbaijan, on its characteristics will refer to the TR1 or TR2 class.

Today, worldwide telecommunications are undergoing a period of wide introduction of fiber-optic lines in practice. The rapid process of informatization of society has become the main reason for the widespread use of fiber-optic transmission systems in information networks for different purposes.

Tens of thousands of kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines has been laid in the world, which covers countries of Western Europe, USA and Japan. The question is about local lines with length from a few tens of thousands - hundreds of kilometers to highways with length of thousands of kilometers, in which information is transmitted at speeds of tens of gigabits per second.

The most typical event in the development of optical lines has been the creation of the first transatlantic route TAT-8 in 1988. Its comparison with the first submarine cable line on a metal cable TAT-1 (1956) showed that the cost for per channel decreased by 100 times. This led to the fact that the general direction of the subsequent decade was the construction of rapid lengthy submarine and underground transmission optical lines. In addition to the transatlantic and transpacific routes TAE highway (Trans-Asia-Europe) that runs along the Silk Road, an underwater pipeline FLAG (Fiber Optic Link Around the Globe - a fiber-optic communication line of the globe) and SEA-ME-WE-3 (South-East Asia-Middle East-East-Western Europe - link South-East Asia - Middle East - Western Europe), should be marked out.

Fiber-optic cable highway TAE, which includes also Azerbaijan can be called a system of agreements on traffic transit. This highway is a network of the previous generation, which is actually not a single network, and set - a chain of networks between China and Western Europe, gathered together for the construction of canals. Countries that have access to the Internet through the TAE, in the case of expansion the communication channel must pay all the countries, through whose territory it carries out the traffic transit. Accordingly, each of these countries itself serves a network and each of them, using different equipment, uses different technical standards.

Unlike the TAE, the "East-West" project is a single network, which is technically and technologically passing through the territory of countries - participants of the project does not require alignment of the chain. The "East-West" highway technologically has a huge advantage in terms of speed of construction, for example VPN networks. The network allows effortlessly connect and provide a guaranteed service, for example a large an international company, operating in several countries.

There are several advantages of the project initiated by Azerbaijan. One of them is the fact that this network will save on network access TR1, whereas today, each country pays for it individually. By bringing the countries into a single network, the consortium will be created, which in turn will save on getting traffic. Another advantage is the fact that the regional traffic (video conferences, movies, games, etc.) will be kept directly within this single network.

Regarding the cost of the "East-West" project, today there is a preliminary assessment of the Booz Allien Hamilton Consulting Company, which prices the project at hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the assessment envisages the construction of its own fiber-optic infrastructure on the region. The company examined how much construction of some optical lines from Western Europe to China can cost.

Company Booz Allien Hamilton offered to work with countries and hold deregulated market. This is a very complicated issue, as each country has its own policies and priorities. Accordingly, each country will protect its national interests.

However, there is another approach that can be much more attractive. This opportunity is using existing optical lines in close cooperation with major leading operators in the region. In general, network operators are built on fairly optimal routes. Operators are well aware of the geography, topography of their countries and networks. Therefore, construction of a network from zero with the exception of those cases when there is an urgent need for optical channels, makes no sense. The exception can be underwater cable line between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, or Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, which is now the subject of negotiations between the countries.

According to practice, construction of an overall network takes several years of hard work. It will be necessary to legally register it, conduct topographical studies, etc. On average construction of the network with length 5,000- 10,000 kilometers can take from three to five years.

The project's implementation will depend how Azerbaijan will be able to convince the countries and the operators in its success. The project may lead to conclusion of a certain framework agreement on traffic transit, on which the region's countries can earn.

There are regional leaders and countries with low development indicators among them. Azerbaijan's initiative, envisaged primarily to "bring up" lagging countries, on the territory of which highway line can be laid, to the general level of development.

It is envisaged that the project will be implemented on the basis of the consortium. Every country, every operator will act as an investor, it can be possible to attract foreign capital.

Today major international investors, in particular China, which at the state level has already expressed readiness to invest in this project in the project, show great interest in this project.

Belarus, Georgia, and almost all countries of the region are interested in this project in various degrees.

Azerbaijan's resolution on the information superhighway "East-West" adopted by the UN is designed to connect totally 20 countries and play an important role for the development of the region.

The project's implementation will eliminate the existing "digital gap" between countries within the Western European and Pacific basins.

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