“The 1 Giga Italy plan will make it possible to free a large part of the Italian territory from the digital divide, creating new opportunities linked to the modernization of the daily activities of citizens and businesses that live in those territories. Not only that: these territories often referred to as “internal” or “marginal” areas often correspond to landscaped areas of great value but subject to depopulation. They will be able to be reborn and host sections of the population who work in smart working or who intend to settle in these territories both as private citizens and as entrepreneurs “. The director of the CNIT Nicola Blefari and Piero Castoldi, professor at the Sant’Anna University of Pisa and member of the CNIT take stock with CorCom on the opportunities that open up following theaward of the 3.4 billion tender for ultra-broadband infrastructure in the gray areas. Competition in which Open Fiber took home most of the lots – 8 out of 14 – as well as the most “profitable” areas.
The 1 Giga Italy plan envisages providing users in the gray areas with the possibility of having access to at least 1 Gb / s in download and at least 200 Mb / s in upload. And the two experts are convinced that it will have a chain impact on other areas as well: “All the new network services of an innovative nature, beyond simple teleworking, will also be fully implemented in white areas, such as tele-medicine, tele-rescue, remote maintenance, and in general all those services that are enriched by telepresence or teleoperation through multimedia communication and in real time ”.
The execution phase opens: the operators sound the alarm about the shortage of manpower. How to intervene?
On this front, the alarm must be extended to the chronic lack of personnel at all levels with scientific-engineering expertise in the ICT area and in particular in telecommunications. There is a lack of graduates and high school graduates, especially in relation to the challenges and the extra demand for work skills that will be necessary for the construction of the infrastructures of the NRP. The recently published Desi report also highlights how we are fourth in the ranking of digital skills, in Europe, despite being the third largest economy in the Union. A strong awareness and stimuli and orientation to the choice of Stem subjects are needed both in high schools and at universities in order to close the gap between supply and demand in this sector. Several Italian universities have launched specific programs both to attract talents to these disciplines and to reduce the age-old problem of the gender gap. Furthermore, a policy of wage dynamics more competitive with the rest of Europe is necessary because one of the reasons for the shortage of personnel is linked to the exit from our country of qualified personnel to countries and realities that offer more favorable economic conditions. Finally, it is necessary to make an effort to improve the image of the profession of technicians and engineers, which today is penalized compared to other sectors, such as the medical and economic-legal sectors.
The availability of FTTH networks is increasing, how important is fiber connectivity to homes?
FTTH technology brings fiber optic connectivity very close to the citizen. It is an approach that allows a radical change of paradigm with respect to the bandwidth capacity which can therefore easily reach the Gb / s as a top speed at least in download and enable a series of high quality video services and, with smart working / studying of today, allow even large families to operate simultaneously without worries. Furthermore, the availability of an FTTH service that arrives directly at the cellular telephone base radio stations allows to fully support the 5G functionalities in its various forms of eMbb (high-speed user experience), Urlcc (real-time services), mMtc (very large population of IoT terminals). The deployment of such an infrastructure, already available in the black areas, when completed also in the white and gray areas, will expand the population basin that will be able to take advantage of these features, both as a fixed infrastructure and as a mobile infrastructure.
But there is the age-old question of demand.
The experience of using broadband networks highlights how it is necessary to break a possible vicious circle. The investment for new infrastructures corresponds to an expectation of use of the infrastructure, but this often does not manifest itself without the presence of the infrastructures. Past experience has been such that, at least in non-market failure areas, the deployment of the infrastructure has in fact always manifested itself first. These services have been valued in areas with high demand that have appreciated the benefits. Subsequently, these infrastructures spread to other areas of the country through interventions by the operators themselves or subsidized by public interventions. In this period we have the advantage of the PNRR, which will allow to break this circle, stimulating the creation of the network and therefore eliminating or reducing the initial resistance.
What will be the challenges of the next few years on the ultra-broadband front?
The current architectures of the access (access) and backbone (metro-core) networks are designed for capacities of 1 Gb / s towards the user and several Terabits per second in the core segments. The expansion of capacity that may be required with the advent of 6G will require an adaptation of transport technologies. The classic fixed connectivity may evolve towards new passive optical network architectures that use new dimensions of multiplexing in the passive optical access network (e.g. wavelength multiplexing or time division thanks to the increase in transmission speed) and at the same time they will compete with the bandwidth promises that 6G plans to put in place, tenfolding the peak speeds of 5G. In all cases, in the metro-core segment an increase of up to two orders of magnitude of the transmission capacity will be necessary which can take place for example through the use of space division multiplexing (e.g. with multicore fibers), as experimented in the laboratory. Fibers of the CNIT of L’Aquila or through solutions of coherent systems (multilevel modulations), tested at the National Laboratory of Networks and Photonic Technologies of the CNIT of Pisa. The securing of optical fiber transmissions natively achievable with the exchange of keys using quantum technologies is also an important aspect of future broadband networks. Finally, we can mention the integrated photonics, which allows a new generation of transmitters with beamforming (variable aiming of the signal transmission) for the future B5G and 6G radio base stations.
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