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Portugal 'Gets' FTTH

2:15 PM -- Portugal already has fine food, wines, and a passion for soccer almost unrivalled worldwide, but now it has something else worth noting: a really interesting next-generation broadband access plan that involves multiple operators, the government, and a wedge of cash.

On January 7, Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT), Sonaecom (which unveiled its FTTH vision last year), Oni Communications , and cable operator ZON Multimédia signed an agreement with the Portuguese government that's based around cooperation and duct sharing as fiber access networks are built out. (See Sonaecom Plans $350M FTTH Build.)

To facilitate the rollout of high-speed access lines, the government says it is "committed to opening ducts for NGNs, to regulating networks, to maintaining a centralised information system and to providing a line of credit with a minimum of 800 million Euro" (US$1.07 billion).

So, the operators are collaborating, and the government is pitching in with funding facilities and the pledge of regulation that will aid the development of broadband services that will, potentially, boost productivity and make Portugal a more attractive location for companies to do business.

In a nutshell, Portugal gets it. And if all goes to plan, Portugal's business and residential users will get it (fiber access broadband) too.

Encouragingly, the idea that fiber access rollout plans can be accelerated for the good of all appears to be spreading around Europe. (See Swisscom Plans $2.3B FTTx Rollout, KPN, Reggefiber JV Approved, Dutch Hold Back on FTTH Frenzy, and French Do Deal on FTTH.)

But not everyone in Portugal is playing ball: Vodafone Portugal has declined, so far, to put its name to the "Protocol on NGNs" that the other operators have signed. (See NGN Accord in Portugal.)

Faster broadband will be vital to help further develop the market for bandwidth-hungry services such as digital TV, already available from Portugal Telecom (which has more than 300,000 subscribers), Sonaecom, and ZON. (See Sonaecom Enhances IPTV, ZON TV Cabo Uses Infinys, and PT Uses DS2 for IPTV.)

Meanwhile, the European Commission has approved national regulator Anacom 's plans for the partial deregulation of the current broadband market, though the EC emphasized "the need for appropriate access obligations on fibre in markets for local loop unbundling and wholesale broadband access." (See EC Approves Portugal Plan.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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