New 'digital highway' connects Kosovo, Albania


An additional fiber optic network helps broaden Kosovo's telecommunications infrastructure.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 03/12/12


Kosovo and Albania will benefit from a newly launched high-speed Internet connection. [AFP]

A newly launched high-speed fiber optic internet connection between Kosovo and Albania will improve the quality and lower the cost of online services in both countries.

The Albanian Transmission System Operator spent 9 million euros on the project, and the Albanian Post (2.6 million euros) and Kosovo Internet provider Kujtesa (2 million euros) also provided funding.

Ekrem Hoxha, chairman of Kosovo's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said the new digital highway will increase Internet traffic and improve the quality of communication between the two states. Hoxha told SETimes the project employs a next-generation network, which enables transmission of voice, data and video services.

Until the launch of this new network, Kosovo operators were communicating with Albania only through microwave links, a less-efficient technology.

"The advantages of this technology are that, through the use of the optic fiber, it enables not to have electro-magnetic interference and increases the safety of data," Hoxha told SETimes. "The connection through the optic fiber enables high-speed transfer and bigger capacities even in large distances, and finally, it also has more favorable prices."

The new network adds to Kosovo's existing telecommunications infrastructure, which includes similar fiber-optic connections with Macedonia and Serbia.

"All these connections are fully functional and contribute in the creation of a more favorable, competing environment in our country," Hoxha told SETimes. "The connection of Kosovo with Albania through the optic fiber makes Kosovo a connecting bridge of the telecommunication infrastructure with the other countries in the Western Balkans."

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that as a new state, Kosovo needs substantial investments in all kinds of infrastructure. Thaci added that the digital highway will help increase the social welfare, create new job, and allow governments in both countries benefit from digital services.

"The E-Governance project, which increases the efficiency of the work of the government and reduces the cost of its work, can only be realized with the development of the digital network," Thaci said.

Albania Prime Minister Sali Berisha said citizens will benefit from higher Internet speeds.

Albanian Post said it aims to ensure quality services at affordable prices for consumers.

"The inter-connection in the future between Tirana, Pristina and Skopje is intended to be realised in one optic network," the Albanian Post said in a release, adding that the new highway will increase the number of the internet users and improve quality for all.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, Albania had more than 139,000 wired broadband subscribers in 2011 (4.34 per 100 inhabitants). Almost half of Albanian citizens (49 percent) use the internet, an increase of 34 percent since 2007.

A report earlier this year from the Kosovo Association of Information and Communication Technology found that nearly 75 percent of Kosovo's population has access to the Internet, a 19 percent increase since 2009.

Hoxha said continued progress in communication technology enables the development of innovation in products and services and faster economic growth.

"We are all witnesses that almost everything nowadays converges to the technology of information," Hoxha said. "Therefore, the Republic of Kosovo is gradually becoming an important telecommunication knot, focusing on the exchange of the Internet traffic."

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Amir Rashica, a professor of information technology at the Kosovo private university AAB, told SETimes that development of the country's communications infrastructure also plays a key role in inter-cultural and inter-ethnic exchanges.

"I believe it is very important to create virtual communication networks with other cultures," he said.

Tune Rrasa, a 19-year-old student, spends hours on the Internet, but he is mostly interested in virtual communication within Kosovo.

"Whatever is done on the information technology sounds good to me," Rrasa told SETimes. "More opportunities, more communication."

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