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MEPSO supports further scoping of the balkans digital highway infrastructure-sharing initiative

26.09.-27.09.2018 – AD MEPSO supports further development of a regional infrastructure sharing initiative “Balkans Digital Highway”, proposed by the World Bank. This endorsement comes in response to the conclusions adopted at the workshop dedicated to the initiative, which took place in Tirana, Albania, on September 26 & 27. The event convened transmission system operators from the Western Balkan region and outside, with AD MEPSO SKOPJE representatives including Tomi Bozinovski - Director of Information Technologies and Telecommunications .

The workshop and the initiative itself emerged out of the World Bank’s Balkans Digital Highway initiative. The Tirana workshop participants discussed the findings of the pre-feasibility studies, produced by the initiative, and strategized about the future of the initiative. This exchange was enriched through exposure to the Baltic, Central American, Greek, Latvian, Romanian, and Slovenian country-level and regional case studies on electricity-telecommunications infrastructure sharing. The Task Team Leader of the World Bank’s Technical Assistance Mrs. Natalija Gelvanovska-Garcia has summarized the importance of moving forward with the initiative:

“Through the Balkans Digital Highway we are working to encourage efficient sharing of available fiber-optic infrastructure, including across the borders. This would prevent governments and private sector from over-investing in broadband access networks. According to our research, Western Balkan transmission system operators have significant excess fiber-optic assets which are largely underutilized. Given the high demand for additional backbone infrastructure from telecommunications sector, energy utilities could engage in infrastructure sharing by leasing access on commercial terms to interested internet service providers. Such a move would create a clear financial ‘win-win’ situation for both the utilities and internet companies”.

AD MEPSO plans for the future are to invest in its telecommunication network and with that network MEPSO would contribute to the regional connectivity.

Workshop participants endorsed the approach proposed by the World Bank, that is to continue with the technical assistance programs on a national and regional levels to support those utilities that are not yet engaged in infrastructure sharing due to capacity, regulatory, or other constraints.

The last phase of the initiative would include unleashing regional infrastructure sharing between neighboring countries. The prospect of this happening is already high, as participating TSOs have agreed to establish an informal group for infrastructure sharing, to, among others, coordinate standards for interconnections and share information about the fiber networks. 

The Balkans Digital Highway Technical Assistance, administered by the Digital Development Department of the World Bank, was financed through the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a multi-donor technical assistance facility composed of multilateral and bilateral donors. The initiative covered all Western Balkan states engaging with a variety of energy and ICT sector stakeholders throughout 2017-2018. The Trieste Summit in July 2017 provided political backing to the initiative by including into the Multi-Year Action Plan an action to establish a regional dialogue on commercialization of spare fibre optic assets and to address the constraints impeding the process. AD MEPSO participates in the Technical Assistance since 2017.