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AzerTelecom Pushes For ‘Azerbaijan Digital Hub’ Program

By Gunay Hajiyeva April 22, 2019

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Earlier this year AzerTelecom, which is the subsidiary of the country’s first mobile operator - Bakcell, launched Azerbaijan Digital Hub program, which is meant to turn Azerbaijan into a regional digital hub. AzerTelecom is looking to make Azerbaijan – a country located on the western shores of the Caspian Sea – a link between the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, improving access to the Internet and digital services for 1.8 billion people.

AzerTelecom, the backbone Internet provider connecting Azerbaijan to the global network, has launched the construction of fiber-optic cable line between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The initiative is a part of the Trans-Caspian ambitious project implemented by AzerTelecom within its “Azerbaijan Digital Hub” program, which is aimed at transforming Azerbaijan into a regional digital hub.

With an aim to build the cable line between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan’s AzerTelecom signed an agreement with the Kazakh Transtelecom and KazTransCom companies. According to the document, the parties to the agreement established a Consortium and formed a Joint Working Group, which will cooperate to launch the fiber-optic cable stretching over nearly 400 km (249 mi) along the bottom of the Caspian Sea.

The new project got significant support when the two countries' officials signed an intergovernmental agreement that provides for joint activities by communication operators of the two countries and includes the construction of fiber optic lines, as well as their ownership and exploitation. The document has been recently approved by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

At the same time, some of the world’s leading consulting and telecommunications companies, including McKinsey and Company, Detecon, Axiom, DLA Piper, Huawei, and PwC, are involved in the project. 

Earlier this year AzerTelecom, which is the subsidiary of the country’s first mobile operator - Bakcell, launched Azerbaijan Digital Hub program, which is meant to turn Azerbaijan into a regional digital hub. AzerTelecom is looking to make Azerbaijan – a country located on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, just south of Russia and north of Iran – a link between the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, improving access to the Internet and digital services for 1.8 billion people.

The project’s creators also believe it will bring Azerbaijan’s telecommunication systems in line with global standards, strengthen the domestic digital market and boost Azerbaijan’s economy by attracting investment in the non-oil sectors, as well as develop capacity within e-services and cybersecurity.

“The main objective of the "Azerbaijan Digital Hub" program is to raise the telecommunication ecosystem of Azerbaijan to the most advanced world standards, to minimize the dependence of the country on foreign countries in the purchase of Internet, and in the future, to become a central country in the sale of Internet in the region, and to transform Azerbaijan from a digital services importing country into a country that produces and exports these services to the neighboring regions under the "Made in Azerbaijan" brand,” reads a statement posted to AzerTelecom’s website.

“With the transformation of Azerbaijan into a Digital Hub, Baku will be added to the world’s web map, along with London, Frankfurt, Sofia, Istanbul, Moscow, Amsterdam and Dubai,” the document reads, adding that AzerTelecom is hoping to lure some of the world’s most valuable brands, such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook and Netflix to the new regional Digital Center.

AzerTelecom has also announced its intention to launch the region’s largest data center – a facility comprised of networked computers that businesses and other organizations can use to organize, process, store and disseminate large amounts of electronic data.

At the same time, “Azerbaijan Digital Hub” program includes the laying of fiber optic cable lines along the protection line of Azerbaijan’s existing railway lines. Earlier this year, AzerTelecom signed agreements with Azerbaijan Railways, the country’s national railway operator, to make that happen beginning sometime this year. Once launched, the system will link infrastructure from various international telecom operators including those in neighboring Iran, Georgia, Russia and Turkey. In addition, the project will allow Azerbaijan Railways to strengthen its infrastructure through the introduction of new technologies and digitalization.

AzerTelecom’s officials in Baku are expecting the digital hub program to help anchor the Caspian country within China’s mega-logistics project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Valued at $1 trillion, BRI is expected to span over 60 countries stretching from the Pacific Ocean to as far away as Portugal and leverage roads, railways and maritime routes to create a 21st century variant of the ancient Silk Road that once transported goods between the east and west.