2014, significant year for ICT development
By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan took significant steps in 2014 to lay the foundation for information and communication development.
The important steps included establishment of the new Ministry of Communication and High Technology Ministry, implementation of the Mobile Number Portability project, financing the start-up projects, production of fiber-optic cable, as well as further development of satellite communication.
The implementation of the MNP service allowed mobile communication subscribers to save their phone number when changing their network operator. The number transfer option envisages a subscriber's transition from one service to another with the provider's prefix of 050, 051, 055, 070 and 077.
The users’ ability to choose their service provider was expected to intensify competition among providers and force the three main operators Bakcell, Azercell and Azerfon to offer more advantageous services to attract new customers.
However, the service hardly met the interest of the subscribers, due to the fact that most of them are already subscribers of two or three mobile operators.
At the end of the year, with the launch of the service, the number of phone number ported exceeded 10,000. The main customers targeted by mobile operators after the launch of MNP are corporate clients.
The reorganization of the Communication and IT Ministry into Communications and High Technologies Ministry expanded the scope of relative activities, namely supervising high-tech industry.
To this end, the country has created National Center for Nuclear Research for the application of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Azerbaijan envisages the construction of reactors of research and educational purposes. The planned capacity of the research reactor is expected to be of 20 megawatts, the educational - 2 kilowatts.
Moreover, the country has also started financing start up projects, with granting credit to 31 projects in 2014. These projects cover such areas as high technology, e-payments, software applications, air navigation system, e-government, e-commerce, as well as projects in education and health.
The sum of funding of start-up projects in 2014 amounted to 1.46 million manats. Of the total sum, aimed at the development of innovative projects, 560,000 manats was allocated in the form of grant funding. The remaining 900,000 manats were allocated in the form of debt financing of two projects.
Fibre-optic cable production
Another prominent achievement of the year 2014 was production of the fibre-optic cable at the Sumgayit Technological Park.
The production based on STP will make it possible to fully meet
domestic demands. European technologies and equipment are used for
the production of the optical, as well as all other types of
cables. About 10,000 kinds of cables are produced in the park.
The production of 500-kv cables will be launched at the beginning of 2015. The launch of their production will allow Azerbaijan to take the leadership in the region and in the CIS in general, because their production technology has not yet been established in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The demands for fiber optic cables are expected to increase substantially in the country with the implementation of the project for development of broadband Internet in Baku and Azerbaijani regions.
The project for national broadband Internet development will be implemented over three years with the support of the State Oil Fund. The cost of the 'Fiber to the home' project is estimated at more than 450 million manats ($573 million).
The ultimate goal of the project is to provide the country, including remote rural settlements, with high-speed Internet in the range of 30-100 Mbit/s, and to increase the number of broadband Internet users up to 85 percent from the current 70 percent. This will allow Azerbaijan to reach the level of developed countries by 2017. At present, the penetration rate of broadband Internet among the population is 50 percent.
Satellite communications was also developing last year with a number of agreements signed. Azerbaijan has also gained control over two low-orbit satellites SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 that will be jointly used by Azerbaijan's Space Agency Azercosmos and the French company "Airbus Defence and Space.
Each of these satellites is capable of daily surveying an Earth's surface area up to three million square kilometers. In addition, they allow taking pictures of the earth's surface with a resolution of up to 1.5 meters in panchromatic mode and up to six meters using multispectral imaging.
Moreover, commissioning of the low orbit satellite control system, which will also allow Azerbaijan to use pictures taken with other satellites, is expected in November 2015.
In addition, construction of the DATA-center TIER-3 is underway in Azerbaijan since late 2014. The clients of the disaster recovery DATA-center are ensured that their data is safe.
The first of this kind DATA processing center in the region is expected to be constructed by February 2015. The center will also provide services to other countries in the region and the world's largest companies such as Google, Facebook and others.
Thus, Azerbaijan by different means has improved its technological basis last year.
The year was also marked with adoption of the state program on national strategy for ICT development, laying the foundation of High-Tech Park, deployment of high-tech products manufacturing, development of e-services. These all steps are prospecting into the near future.