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Internet connectivity price drop to benefit research & education in South Caucasus through EaPConnect

4 November 2019, Amsterdam, Netherlands Students, researchers and academics in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be better able to collaborate internationally thanks to improved Internet connectivity with more competitive market prices, achieved in the EU-funded 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, have helped to achieve this reduction. The money saved by the 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.

Veronika Di Luna of GÉANT, EaPConnect Project Manager, says: “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.”

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 euro per Gbps was the highest across all six of the EaP countries, which include Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. The latest monthly price in Azerbaijan is only around 7% of that amount, at around 1,543 euro 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.

Procurement in the spotlight
Ramaz Kvatadze CEO of GRENA says: “The GÉANT procurement team performed excellent work which resulted in a significant reduction of connectivity prices in the Caucasus region. The saved amount of funds will be allocated to the upgrade of the network infrastructure and development of new services. This is essential for the integration of the Georgian research and education community in the European Research Area.”

Erik Huizer, CEO of GÉANT says: “I am proud that GÉANT's procurement team has worked hard to support these achievements and we hope the trend towards more affordable network connectivity will continue. International collaboration in research and education depends on good connections - between networks and between people - and GÉANT is pleased to help strengthen both of these sorts of bonds, allowing ever greater opportunities for Eastern Partnership research and education communities to work with their peers in Europe and other world regions.”

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.


About EaPConnect
The EaPConnect (Eastern Partnership Connect) project is integrating the Eastern Partnership national networks with the pan-European GÉANT network in order to decrease the ‘digital divide’ between countries and facilitate the participation of local scientists, students and academics in global research and education collaborations. All Eastern Partnership countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – have received project-funded connectivity links and/or upgrades since EaPConnect began in July 2015. A new procurement to improve connectivity in Belarus is also nearing completion. By interconnecting the R&E communities across the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region and with their European counterparts, EaPConnect is creating a gateway for talented individuals in the EaP countries to be truly global players.

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargements Negotiations (DG NEAR) is contributing 95% (€13m) towards the cost of the EaPConnect project, providing funding under Grant Agreement 2015-356353; the remaining 5% is co-funded by the six beneficiary countries.

Website: https://www.eapconnect.eu/
Twitter: @EaPConnect_News https://twitter.com/EaPConnect_News
Facebook: @EaPConnectProject https://www.facebook.com/EaPConnectProject/
Contact: Laura.Durnford@geant.org

The Academic Scientific Research Computer Network of Armenia (ASNET-AM) is the National Research and Education Network (NREN) of Armenia. Created in 1994 and having 25 years of experience in networking and information technologies, ASNET-AM provides various networking solutions to the academic, scientific, research, educational, cultural and other organisations of Armenia, which are engaged in scientific and educational activity.

The structure and policy of ASNET-AM operation was developed and implemented by the Institute for Informatics and Automation Problems (IIAP) of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (NAS RA). ASNET-AM is a beneficiary partner of the EU-funded EaPConnect project.

Website: https://asnet.am
Twitter: @IIAP_ASNET_AM https://twitter.com/IIAP_ASNET_AM
Facebook: @Asnet-Am https://www.facebook.com/Asnet-Am-325757004245273/

About AzScienceNet and Institute of Information Technology of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (IIT of ANAS)
AzScienceNet, the national R&E networking organisation for Azerbaijan, founded by the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, has been serving the research community since the 1980s. Being the first point of Internet connectivity in the country led AzScienceNet to advanced global networking technology. Today, with a data centre and modern network connected via EaPConnect to GÉANT, AzScienceNet delivers most of the modern services such as connectivity, cloud, eduroam, videoconferencing, identity and security, distant education, web hosting, storage, TV broadcasting and VoIP. AzScienceNet is the e-infrastructure of national e-science and is developing the national open science cloud in correspondence with the European Open Science Cloud.

AzScienceNet has always been strong thanks to its parent organisation, the Institute of Information Technology of ANAS. IIT is Azerbaijan’s leading research organisation for Computer Science, Information Technology and Information Society. Besides its research centres and graduate education (Masters and PhD), IIT has unique education opportunities in IT for PhD students of all disciplines, possible via distance education technology. IIT is one of 40 research institutes in the government-funded Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, which conducts basic and applied research, coordinates research activities and educates most of PhD students in the country, works closely with government and forms science policy.

Website: www.ict.az/en

About GRENA:
The Georgian Research and Educational Networking Association GRENA was founded on July 26, 1999 for the development of Information Technologies (IT) in education and research fields. The main GRENA activities are:

  • providing Information Technology services to users and implementation of new, innovative services;
  • IT education;
  • preparation and implementation of research and technology projects.

GRENA provides IT services using its own infrastructure and different technologies to more than 150 organisations in Georgia. GRENA owns fibre-optic based network infrastructure connecting Georgian research and education institutions. GRENA is running a data centre with cloud, virtualisation, hosting, cyber-security, and e-learning services.

Website: https://www.grena.ge/
Twitter: @G_R_E_N_A https://twitter.com/G_R_E_N_A
Facebook: @grena.grena.ge https://www.facebook.com/grena.grena.ge/
Contact: contact@grena.ge

About GÉANT:
GÉANT is Europe’s leading collaboration on network and related e-infrastructure and services for the benefit of research and education, contributing to Europe’s economic growth and competitiveness. The organisation develops, delivers and promotes advanced network and associated e-infrastructure services, and supports innovation and knowledge-sharing amongst its members, partners and the wider research and education networking community.

Website: www.geant.org
Twitter: @GEANTnews
Facebook: @GEANTcommunity
Contact: Laura.Durnford@geant.org

About DG NEAR:
The mission of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) is to take forward the European Union’s neighbourhood and enlargement policies, as well as to coordinate relations with European Economic Area – European Free Trade Association (EEA-EFTA) countries insofar as Commission policies are concerned. By implementing assistance actions in Europe’s eastern and southern neighbourhood, DG NEAR supports reform and democratic consolidation, and strengthens the prosperity, stability and security around Europe.

Website: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/about/directorate-general/index_en.htm
Twitter: @eu_near https://twitter.com/eu_near

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