Students, researchers and academics in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be able to better collaborate internationally thanks to improved Internet connectivity at more competitive market prices, achieved with the support of the EU-funded Eastern Partnership Connect (EaPConnect) project.
Prices for Internet connectivity for research and education communities in South Caucasus countries have dropped by more than 80% since the project first tendered in 2016. Procurement activities by EaPConnect, led by GÉANT, the pan-European network for scientific excellence, research, education and innovation, have helped to achieve this reduction. The money saved by EaPConnect partners in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia can now be invested in the development of services and skills that will strengthen the national research and education networks (NRENs), better supporting the countries’ research and education communities and their ability to collaborate with peers in Europe and other world regions.
Improving sustainability and digital equality
EaPConnect strives to achieve better connectivity at lower prices because high-bandwidth, secure Internet networks that are dedicated for research and education form the basis service provided by project partner NRENs.
“By helping to reduce prices in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region, the project aims to offer better value to users, to reduce the digital divide between EaP and other countries, and to maintain these positive effects in the long term.”Veronika Di Luna of GÉANT, EaPConnect Project Manager
What has changed?
Geopolitical constraints, difficult terrain and a limited number of suppliers have previously kept market prices high in the South Caucasus countries. But the markets responded to the EaPConnect project’s buying capacity when tendering for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia for the third time. Other significant factors have been a growth in demand for bandwidth across these populations, the improved capacity of the pre-existing Black Sea fibre-optic link to Georgia that is run by Caucasus Online, and the entry of a new competitor to these markets – TransTeleCom – opening up a new geographical route.
Across Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, there has been an 83% drop in total price per Gbps (Gigabits per second) of network connectivity since 2016. The most dramatic decrease has been in Azerbaijan, where the original monthly price of €21,500 per Gbps was the highest across all six of the EaP countries. The latest monthly price in Azerbaijan is only around 7% of that amount, at around €1,543 per Gbps, making it the third cheapest of the six countries overall. The monthly price per Gbps in Georgia has dropped by 78.5%, and in Armenia the decrease is 62.5%.
In this newest round of network procurements, the following changes occurred:
- GRENA, Georgia
Updated from two 1Gbps links to Frankfurt and Budapest with a 1Gbps backup, to a 3Gbps link to Frankfurt with provider Caucasus Online, plus two 1Gbps backup links with Caucasus Online and Silknet.
- ASNET-AM, Armenia
Updated from a 1Gbps Frankfurt link with a 0.5Gbps backup, to a 2Gbps link to Frankfurt with supplier TransTeleCom, plus a 1Gbps Internet backup with provider GNC-Alfa.
- AzScienceNet, Azerbaijan
Updated from a 1Gbps Frankfurt link and a 0.5Gbps Internet backup, to a 3Gbps Frankfurt link and a 1Gbps Internet backup both provided by TransTeleCom.
Cooperation between the GÉANT community and commercial partners is vital to the successful deployment of these upgraded network links. The GRENA upgrade was completed on 25 May 2019; the ASNET-AM upgrade was completed on 31 October 2019, and the AzScienceNet upgrade is due for completion in November 2019.
The EaPConnect project aims to create a regional research and education network in the EU’s Eastern Partner countries namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The overall objective is to decrease the digital divide, improve intra-regional connectivity and facilitate the participation of local scientists, students and academics in global research and education collaborations.
Picture: István Tétényi and Paul Rouse of the GÉANT procurement team.