Croatian publicly-owned transmission company Odasiljaci i Veze (OiV) has begun a government-backed project to combine the surplus fibre-optic broadband network capacity of seven majority state-owned companies including energy and transport operators to create a nationwide open access wholesale high speed internet network. Five public companies signed 30-year contracts on 21 February 2014 to contribute their surplus fibre capacity to the national project, namely:
- national road operator Hrvatske Ceste;
- national motorway operator Hrvatske Autoceste;
- motorway operator Autocesta Rijeka-Zagreb;
- railway operator HZ Infrastruktura;
- crude oil transportation company Jadranski Naftovod (JANAF);
while two further public companies were scheduled to sign contracts this week:
- natural gas transmission operator Plinacro; and
- HEP–Telekomunikacije (the fibre network division of electricity transmission operator HEP-OPS, part of Hrvatske Elektroprivrede).
Contract signing was overseen by Croatia’s infrastructure ministry – the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport & Infrastructure – and the Ministry of Public Administration – responsible for ‘e-Croatia’ and digital society/economy projects. In an announcement published by the infrastructure ministry, OiV stated that the public companies participating in the national broadband scheme will receive 50% of revenue generated on their surplus fibre infrastructure, and ‘all additional costs as well as return on investment of the associated parts of these enterprises in the optical infrastructure will be covered from that income.’ Telecoms operators will lease fibre-optic network capacity under equal conditions, with OiV noting that a major driving factor in the project is to provide opportunities for extending high speed internet access in rural and underdeveloped areas, while it expects the open access programme to result in the extension of services to a number of areas which currently have no broadband access at all, with these rollouts potentially attracting further European Union (EU) funding. Profit for the project will be ‘fully reinvested in building new broadband infrastructure in areas where there is sufficient commercial interest.’ Ultimately, OiV added, the project should encourage greater market competition as it is expected to make services not only more accessible but also cheaper. The integration of the seven dark fibre networks – stretching around 8,000km – into a single network spanning the country will take roughly two years to complete, OiV estimated.