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Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC)
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Next Generation Networks

The development of NGN – Next Generation Networks is a strategic priority for Portugal. The coverage by NGN access is already very high and continues the investment in NGN in rural areas. The R&D in NGN and in the applications it can support is also a priority.

The term NGN – Next Generation Networks usually refers to the transition to high-speed broadband networks based on the IP – Internet Protocol and involving a greater integration of services over a single network.

More technically, the NGN are defined as networks based on pulse packet transmission to provide telecommunications services in high speed broadband with QoS – Quality of Service, and such that the functions related to the services provided are independent of the underlying transport technologies. These networks provide users with access to different service providers, and support extensive mobile access.

Although NGN are usually thought to be point-to-point optic fiber, there are alternative technologies that can provide Next Generation Access, such as HFC – Hybrid Fiber Copper, and cable networks with Docsis 3.0 – Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications 3.0 that enables communications and bandwidths of 200 Mbit/s, in which Portugal was a pioneer in 2009 through the cable operator ZON Multimedia. In addition, access to NGN increasingly involves mobile wireless connections that allow consistent and ubiquitous access to integrated services of voice, data and video.

In Portugal, the first sizeable NGN to be available was the RCTS – Science, Technology  and Society Network that provides high connectivity to the scientific system and the national higher education system, including to the European Research and Education Network GEANT, and a very wide range of advanced services over broadband. This network is operated by the FCCN – Foundation for National Scientific Computing, a public foundation steered and funded through the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) and the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT). In 2005, the RCTS began to have a 400 Km optic fiber optic cable of its own linking Lisbon-Coimbra-Aveiro-Porto-Braga. In the following years until 2009 this optic fiber cable backbone was expanded with links Lisbon-Setubal-Évora-Portalegre-Caia Border with Spanish Extremadura, Porto-Viana do Castelo-Valência Border with Spanish Galicia, and branches to Leiria and Santarém, reaching more than 1,000 Km of optic fiber cable owned by FCCN and allowing 10 Gbit/s connectivity to about 55% of the public higher education system (with institutions weighted by the number of students enrolled), coverin 62% of the public universities and 43% of the public polytechnics. The other institutions of the public higher education system and the institutions of the private higher education system that decided to adhere to the RCTS remained linked by leased lines to commercial operators, as they there have been by more than a decade, but now providing connectivity over the effective demand of the institutions. Additionally, in 2009 the RCTS was ready for connection as a redundant optic fiber ring to the National Research and Education Network of Spain, and therefore to the European Research and Education Network, on the borders of Portugal with the Spanish Extremadura and Galicia.

Throughout 2005, the RCTS came to include wireless access in all Higher Education campuses and to integrate them into a national virtual campus with a unified authentication system (see e-U Virtual Campus), pioneering in the world at the time the integration of the whole Higher Education system of a country into a single virtual campus and becoming one of the largest integrated networks of wireless broadband access in the world.

In 2004, the FCCN started to provide advanced services over broadband, with the release of the b-on Knowledge Library Online, which under the steering and with the funding of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) were extended from 2006 to 2008 to the High-Definition video repository (site in Portuguese), the RCAAP – Open Access Scientific Repository of Portugal, the main node of the INGRID – National Grid Initiative, VoIP and Video Conferencing for the public Higher Education system and the associated communications services to support collaborative work, the video diffusion and archiving services for the scientific and higher education system, the Archive of the Portuguese Web.

The RCTS has become one of the most advanced research and education networks in the European Union, and the first network in the country with infrastructure, services and applications layers characteristic of a truly advanced NGN.

The second group of NGN in Portugal was that of the 4 Broadband Community Networks, built mainly in the 2nd half of 2008 in a remarkably efficient project, also under the steering, oversight and monitoring of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) and as a result of a investment of 34 million euros from the Knowledge Society Operational Programme of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education and the municipal associations of the respective areas which were the promoters and are the owners of these open, public and multi-operator networks. The 4 Broadband Community Networks – Minho Valley, Lima Valley, Terra Quente Transmontana, Distrito de Évora – mainly cover rural areas and, together, they consists of more than 1,200 Km of optic fiber cable, with the corresponding data centers and POP – Points of Presence, active equipment operating at up to 10 Gbit/s and access to public buildings of the municipalities involved, including the distributed network of public schools, and they are open networks available to muti-operator FTTx providers in the covered disadvantaged areas regarding telecommunications services provided by the market.

The Council of Ministers Resolution No. 120/2008 (text in Portuguese), of July 30, set the strategic priority of promoting NGN and established guidelines for investment s in such networks in remote and rural areas. The Ministry of Public Works, Communications and Transports, as part of measures to combat the financial and economic crisis that appeared in 2008, launched public tenders for the construction of NGN in rural areas for the North, Centre, Alentejo and Algarve regions, with a planned investment of 157 million euros and the purpose of inducing the creation of 20,000 jobs in the respective projects.

The Portuguese government also signed agreements with the telecom operators involving: regulatory measures to remove horizontal barriers that were obstacles to investments in NGN and to support the expansion of ducts for the fiber installation; development of a centralized information system that allows operators to access information on the location of ducts; creation of a special credit line and fiscal incentives for investment in NGN. For their part, the operators have committed themselves to invest in optic fiber infrastructures to ensure the connection of 1.5 million users by 2009.

Following the publication of the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 120/2008 (text in Portuguese), of July 30, the ANACOM – Communications Authority of Portugal worked with the Government to prepare the legal framework to promote the development of NGN that consisted mainly of the following two acts that constituted milestones in innovative legislation in the European context  for opening ducts to optic fiber installation:

  • Decree-Law No. 123/2009 (text in Portuguese), of May21, establishes the regime applicable to the construction of infrastructures suitable for the accommodation of electronic communications networks, to the installation of electronic communications networks and to the construction of telecommunications infrastructure in land subdivisions, residential areas, groups of buildings and buildings held by public bodies, and defined the general principles of competition, open access, non-discrimination, transparency and effectiveness. It was also established that the right of access to these infrastructures by operators will be assured on the basis of a centralized information system (CIS) that will allow access to complete geo-referenced regarding all the infrastructures able to accommodate electronic communications networks. The Decree-Law also adapted the previous regulations for telecommunications infrastructures in buildings, and established the obligation of installing fiber in addition to the previous obligation of installing copper and coaxial cable in buildings and private condominiums.
  • Decree-Law No. 258/2009 (text in Portuguese), of September 25, determines the extent of application of the access obligations imposed by Decree-Law No. 123/2009 (text in Portuguese), of May21, to the infrastructures owned or operated by electronic communications operators or entities that own infrastructures they use.

At the end of the third quarter of 2010, the number of households wired with optic fiber (FTTx) amounted to 1.4 million, 19% of the total dwellings and 30% of the total households. The dwellings cabled with EuroDOCSIS 3.0, the standard used by cable TV operators that allows connections to 200 Mbit/s, reached  3.4 million, 46% of the total dwellings and 73% of the total households. In coverage by Next Generation Access networks these are very high values ​​in Europe.

The Research and Development (R&D) in NGN and in the applications they can support, particularly regarding the Future Internet, including power grids, smart transport, smart cities, smart energy systems, Digital Interactive Media, as well as the associated critical infrastructures security have taken a special priority in national R&D programmes, through the funding of scientific institutions, research projects and doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships, and more specifically through programmes aimed at strengthening Knowledge Networks in the scope of international partnerships, namely the Carnegie Mellon – Portugal Program, the MIT – Portugal Program, the UTexas Austin – Portugal Program, the Fraunhofer – Portugal Program. The Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) has been paying special attention to the promotion of these activities as part of its contribution to strategic management of these programs and the associated R&D thematic networks, the organization of sessions of the Forum for the Information Society dedicated to these issues, and the promotion of the participation of research units and enterprises in the European R&D programmes in the mentioned areas, particularly in the ICT component of the EU 7th Framework Programme on RTD and in the ICT PSP – ICT Policy Support Programme of the CIP – Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme.

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )