“Ubiquitous Broadband For Everyone” has been specified as the target for 2023 in the context of the “National Broadband Strategy and Action Plan (2017-2020)” prepared by the participation of the Turkish Regulatory Body, namely the Republic of Turkey Information Technologies and Telecommunication Institution and the related stakeholders under the coordination of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Telecommunications operators, is obliged to give service according to national and international rules and abiding to the specified standards certified by authorized institutions in the telecommunications world. The “Universal Service Obligation” is a long-standing telecommunications principle. We can define this principle as a consumer protection that ensures everyone has access to the telecommunications services regardless of where they live or their position and their economic conditions. “Universal Service Obligation” concept has been the immutable principle of the telecommunications world for decades but its definition is constantly changing by the introduction of new services. Initially it has been declared for the telephone service, but now it is also described for the new generation telecommunications services. Broadband demand has increased and internet technologies has developed with the unprecedented increase in internet usage and the new generation services. While the definition of broadband is being updated constantly, it can be defined as a concept come up with higher speed requirements and data transfer over wider bandwidth in the scope of transition from traditional electronic communications services to the new generation services. “Broadband universal service”, also known as “universal service obligation” refers to government efforts to ensure all citizens have access to the broadband internet. Broadband connectivity will acquire the same level of importance as access to electricity.
PTT and subsequently Türk Telekom, which has been the sole telecommunications operator for decades as a monopoly in Turkey, has invested huge amounts in order to give universal telephone service that reaches every corner of the country. 80’s has went down in history as the years of advance for our contry’s telecommunications infrastructure. In the beginning of 1980’s, the whole infrastructure was based on analog technology. Within a short time, copper wires replaced lead cables and then starting with the year 1985, fiber infrastructure was installed and started to expand. The transmission systems was first extended and then digitalized. The number of automatic telephone exchanges increased rapidly and spread across the country, the villages got acquainted with telephone and telephone exchanges. The first digital telephone exchange tender opened in 1984 and the first digital telephone exhange was given to service in Ankara Kavaklıdere on December 18, 1984. And afterwards, the whole exchange and transmission infrastructure was converted to digital technology with an unprecedented speed. In 1981, apart from a few “data leased lines” belonging to some big institutions, there was no data communications services given in Turkey. In a short period of time, “dial-up” modem, facsimile, circuit switched data network and X25 data network, which was the predecessor of internet and finally internet services started. This extraordinary process took place in a very short time period as 10 years. While in 1984, the telecom infrastructure and services in Turkey had no digital technology component, in 1994 the whole infrastructure was converted to digital technology, data networks were in place and data services were being given, the first GSM operator has started service and the first Turkish satellite was launched into space. In brief Turkey, who was lagging behind the world for about 10-15 years in terms of telecom technologies in the beginning of 1980’s, catched up with the world in terms of technology and new services in a period of 10 years, this was a revolutionary period.
This historical revolutionary period of Turkish telecommunications has been successfull with the PTT personnel who has been characterized as “hard-working, devoted, faithful” by the PTT General Manager Servet Bilgi and the corporate culture of PTT which has been founded in 1840 and ofcourse with visionary executives. Those executives, directing the investments had “domestic and national” vision. PTT ARLA (PTT Electronic Communications Devices Laboratory and Factory), which has set the foundation of contemporary professional electronic industry in Turkey, has been established in 1965 as an initiative of PTT. While it was a research and development organization at the beginning, it started manufacturing in 1968 and produced successfully its own design telecom system and equipment. PTT ARLA converted into a joint stock company, namely Teletaş. With a wide product portfolio ranging from digital exchange and transmission systems to cell phones, Teletaş started to enter international telecom markets. Majority shares of Teletaş, belonging to the public at the beginning, has passed to the private and then foreign capital. In order to establish the country’s telecommunications infrastructure with domestic facilities, Netaş has been founded again by PTT’s initiative. Netaş also had a wide product portfolio and has taken a place on the international market. Majority shares of Netaş, has also passed from public to private sector. Today both of these companies, while their partnership structures has been changed through mergers with international companies, are continuing domestic production in the communications sector.
During the digitalization years of telecom infrastructure, the products and systems of those PTT initiative companies has been used intensively. However, it was impossible for a country to develop in any field without acquiring the latest technology for its telecom infrastructure. Therefore it was imperative to update the telecom infrastructure and services according to the latest technology before anything else. In other words, during this process, “time is cash” principle was valid. In tender specifications, “domestic production” was preferable, but domestic production speed, especially for the new generation services, couldn’t catch up with the investment rate. The price of any delay in investments, could be much higher than lagging behind in domestic production, for the development of the country. For these reasons, domestic production which has been started timely and encouraged, couldn’t be successfull in the new generation services at the desired level. At this point in stage, in order to find the way to success in the latest technology domestic and national production, we have to take advantage of past experiences.
Today, it is possible to access to telephone and internet services from any point in our country, thanks to the investments made according to the “universal service” principle with the vision put forward by Türk Telekom before privatization. But the existing infrastructure is not sufficient in terms of new technologies developing with an unprecedented pace and new generation services and new user requirements. Besides the traditional data sources, the amount of digital data obtained from equipment, sensor, geographic applications, internet sites and social media is increasing exponentially each year and this year it is expected to reach 40 billion terabytes. “Big data” concept was born as a consequence of this sharp rise in digital data accumulation and new technological developments and investments were triggered with the need to sort and process this “big data” in order to get benefit from it. Broadband services has become more important with “big data”. “Universal Broadband Service” obligation referred to in the first paragraph; covers the actions taken to provide economic service to all of the citizens, besides extending the broadband infrastructure,
Among the broadband technologies most commonly utilized in our country today, xDSL and mobile broadband technologies take the first place, fiber and cable internet technology usage is increasing on the other hand. Turkey is lagging behind the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average in terms of fixed and mobile broadband penetration. Furthermore, cable and fiber penetration is low and there exists digital divide between regions. In order to extend the fiber network, which is the infrastructure technology of the future, throughout the country, investments for the infrastructure should be facilitated.
In this context, it is important that the following main targets has been put forward as 2023 targets and support for “domestic and national” production has been emphasized in the Action Plan referred to in the first paragraph.
- To provide broadband service to every house at minimum 100 Mbit/sec speed,
- To develop the infrastructure to carry fixed and mobile broadband services,
- To increase the internet usage percentage between 16-74 year old population above 80 %,
- To prepare the conditions for our country to become a regional communications hub and connection point and to establish powerful Internet Exchange Points.
The forecasts about the increase in data traffic, differs according to the estimators, but everyone accepts that the increase is exponential. Therefore, broadband infrastructure and access network targets should also be updated exponentially in order to meet this digital momentum. With the increase in usage of the new generation services like Internet Of Things (IOT), cloud computing, virtual/augmented/extended reality applications, etc., the new requirements will be more stringent.
The “domestic and national” character of “Broadband Communications Infrastructure” projects has become vital because of today’s shifting nature of the global power centers. The natural result of the facts that countries are connected to each other through internet and critical infrastructures are becoming increasingly dependent on internet, cyber security has become one of the most important defense areas of a country. In order to provide national cyber security, to increase the national competence in this area is vital. On the other hand; as stated in the “Big Data” section of the Turkish Republic Presidency Digital Transformation Office web site; “To convert data into value is only possible with a domestic and national vision. Every inch of earth of our country has a value equivalent to the cost of our lives, we should look at every byte of our data with the same importance. In this context, it is very important that every byte of our data should stay in our borders and be protected.” When we take into accout that OECD qualifies the innovation based on “Big Data” as one of the new sources of development, the importance of domestic and national sensitivity in this area can be understood more clearly.
The field which the USA and China is in a cutthroat competition is 5G, the latest mobile broadband standard, which they consider to be very important to hold the political, economical and military leadership of the world. Indeed 5G, is more than a telecommunications standard, it is an industry standard. The main characteristics of 5G, which has an effect on many vertical sectors and is going to shape the future life, are high data rates, low latency periods, provision of high number of connections and intense equipment access which is essential for IoT (Internet of Things). The other important characteristic of 5G, which is expected to be in commercial service this year, is that it is based on software and cloud computing technologies. The technologies which will be the basis for Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation will become available with 5G. It is very important that National 5G Strategy should be formed with the contribution of all the related bodies under the auspieces of the top tier of the State.
The target in our national broadband strategy, should be to reach a level in which we produce and steer the technology, not only purchase and use it. International Telecommunications Union “ITU”, founded in 1865, was one of the first international organizations, which steers the technology by establishing universal telecommunications standards and Ottoman Empire was one of the founding members of this organization. The first information source, the engineers encountered when they started working in PTT, was CCITT (International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee) standard books, published in different colors each year. Nevertheless we couldn’t gain a position between the standard establishing countries for years, but from now on our goal should be to take place in the pioneer teams which orient new technologies. While establishing the standards, product design can take place and with a national and domestic broadband infrastructure development vision, Turkey will be able to acquire a position of leadership for technology infrastructure provider in its region. Domestic production in telecommunications is much more easier today, given the level of technology which is much more convenient than before for the new players to enter into the market. This condition provides a big opportunity for companies, which design and produce products for the communications sector, to enter into the national and international markets.
The Turkish nation, who realized the revolutionary step taken in 1980’s, has the potential for catching the digital momentum and becoming the leader of technology and the regional hub and traffic exchange point in the coming decade. The main infrastructure provider Türk Telekom’s ownership should be in the public sector because “Universal Service” obligation will be essential to prevent the “digital divide” between regions. Furthermore, Türk Telekom has been the driver in telecommunications sector for years, and in order to be able to continue this duty, its ownership should be public. Liberalisation in the telecommunications sector is important for providing the best service in the most economic conditions to the end user and for this aim, competition should be under the State supervision. However to provide this competition conditions, there is no necessity for Türk Telekom to be privatized, which owns the basic infrastructure relevant for national security.
The road to contemporary civilization, which The Great Leader Atatürk pointed out, today passes through Broadband and 5G. Facilitating access to information and providing equality in using informatics technologies, will pave the way for raising more knowledgeable and confident generations. Joe Torow has said that “The people who doesn’t know how to use information, won’t be successfull in the 21st century.” Today we can say that “The societies who are not information literate won’t be able to survive in the 21st century.”