Need for speed: Investments by operators are leading to faster internet connections

The Turkish broadband market has seen massive growth in the past decade. Between 2003 and the third quarter of 2011, the number of subscriptions rose from 18,600 to more than 12.7m, according to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA). The subscribers are divided among various fixed and mobile services, the most popular being ADSL (7m), mobile internet (5m) and cable (450,000). As for the speeds of these connections, by the third quarter of 2011, the majority of Turkey’s fixed broadband subscriptions, some 80%, offered speeds of 8 mbps.

Of these fixed connections, just over 80% were ADSL, with TTNET, a subsidiary of Türk Telekoma, leading by market share (86.37%), followed by several alternative providers. In recent years, new ADSL technologies have allowed companies to expand their overall capacity for ADSL lines. These technologies, such as ADSL2, ADSL2+ and VDSL2, have steadily increased overall capacity to 100 mbps. Between 2006 and 2010, Türk Telekom grew its network by 30% to 128,000 km. In June 2008 it announced the use of VDSL2. This shift allowed the firm to offer packages with download rates up to 32 mbps. That rate rose in January 2010, when the firm announced VDSL2 services with speeds of up to 100 mbps.

LINKS FROM ABROAD: Infrastructure growth, however, is not merely a national phenomenon. International networks have been an increasingly important component of operators’ fixed infrastructures, as demand for wholesale data leasing services continues to rise. In recent years, Turkish telecom providers have announced major projects set to improve Turkey’s international connectivity and access to growing markets such as wholesale data services.

Türk Telekom has been leading the charge. In June 2010 it announced the Jeddah, Amman, Damascus Istanbul (JADI) LINK project with its partners, Saudi Telecom Group, Jordan Telecom Group and the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment. The 2530-km cable stretches from Saudi Arabia north into Jordan and Damascus, and then across Turkey to Istanbul. JADI is intended to be the start of a larger terrestrial network that would serve as an alternative to the submarine cable network crossing the Red and Mediterranean Seas.

The link has a capacity of 200 gbps and is capable of carrying both voice and data.

Türk Telekom has also made moves to establish its network to Turkey’s west. In May 2010 it purchased Hungarian wholesale data operator Invitel for €221m, giving it access to 27,000 km of fibre-optic infrastructure in Europe. With this acquisition, Türk Telekom aims to make Turkey into a terrestrial voice and data hub connecting Europe and the Middle East.

GREATER CAPACITY: Turkcell, the country’s largest mobile provider, has also made major moves in the past two years. Following its acquisition of Superonline in 2008, Turkcell announced a series of fixed infrastructure investments. In December 2010 it joined a regional cable network (RCN) project with a consortium of seven operators – the UAE’s Etisalat, Mobily from Saudi Arabia, Jordan Telecom, Mada-Zain consortium of Jordan and Syria Telecommunications Establishment.

The cable will start in the UAE emirate of Fujairah, and is set to travel through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria before crossing Turkey to reach Istanbul. The consortium plans to build two parallel lines, which will follow slightly different paths to allow a greater data capacity, which is expected to be 12.8 tbps. The cable is set to be 7750 km and carry a price tag of $500m.

With Turkey’s telecoms majors working to spin a web of data cables both inside and outside of the country, it is no surprise that the leaders of these companies are emphasising the country’s growing role as a data hub for Europe and the Middle East. “This substantial infrastructure project [the RCN] is planned to position Istanbul as the world’s newest Internet base,” Turkcell’s CEO Süreyya Ciliv said statement following the project’s announcement. “Through this highway between Fujairah and Istanbul we are aiming for faster and easier internet traffic, widening internet expansion and to bring new opportunities to people across the region.”

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