Poles sign pact for broadband development

The largest Polish telecommunications operators, including the Polish incumbent operator Telekomunikacja Polska SA, signed a “Pact for development of broadband access to electronic services and communications networks in Poland” last week.

The pact was signed at the end of a two-day conference, “Broadband Services Forum: Knowledge-Technology-Entertainment,” organized by the Polish magazine Computerworld Weekly. The conference, held in Warsaw, drew more than 300 attendees from Polish telecommunication and media companies and from local and central government.

The pact could be seen as the market’s answer to the broadband development strategy published by Poland’s Ministry of Infrastructure and based on European Union (E.U.) guidelines. The operators listed what they can offer the market and government, and also stated their expectations from the regulatory body, the government and Parliament in terms of broadband services and development of access infrastructure.

Surprisingly, the Polish GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) operators, Polkomtel SA and Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa Sp. z oo, refused to sign the pact due to the words “to facilitate new investments … observing the principles of … technology neutrality in compliance with the European Union’s legal regulations.”

They considered the technology neutrality (although it is mandatory according to E.U. law) as a threat to their business. They are afraid of Sferia (OSP Polpager Sp. z oo)and other telecommunications operators that use radio frequencies instead of cable to deliver telephony services to customers. Customers of such operators may have some mobility, paying much less for the telephone connections than for GSM services.

There are no reliable measures on the current number of broadband users in Poland — one estimate claims that there are more than 500,000 subscribers with broadband Internet connectivity (128K bits per second or faster) over DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) or cable TV connections. Several small local companies also offer broadband Internet connectivity to tens or hundreds of private customers, using Ethernet or Wi-Fi technology. Polish mobile operators are also starting to offer 3G (third-generation) services using UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System).

The number of installed DSL lines is growing at about 80 per cent each year, but the availability of Polish broadband content is still limited.

During the Forum, cable television providers and telephony providers declared that they will start offering triple-play services (television, telephony and Internet access) in some major Polish cities in 2005.

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