Fostering Infrastructure Sharing in the Western Balkans: Balkans Digital Highway Pre-feasibility Studies : Summary

The availability of broadband infrastructure has been found to be an important determinant of a country’s economic and social development. In recognition of this, the European Union (EU) adopted a Digital Agenda for Europe in 2012 that has since been updated by the European 2025 Gigabit Society.

The deployment of broadband infrastructure has also come to be a major priority for the Western Balkans region, which consists of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Infrastructure sharing, an agreement between two or more operators (including utilities from other sectors of the economy, such as electricity) to share various parts of their infrastructure to provide services, is an effective way to lower the costs of deploying broadband communications networks and obtain better connectivity; it also helps to protect the environment, reduce resource consumption, and increase energy efficiency.

Given the benefits, the World Bank set up the Balkans Digital Highway initiative to explore and advance infrastructure-sharing opportunities in the Western Balkans region. The initiative carried out a number of pre-feasibility studies to (i) explore opportunities to use the excess capacity on existing fiber optic ground wire networks located alongside power grids operated by transmission system operators (TSOs) in the six Western Balkan economies to generate additional income, (ii) make a technical assessment of the existing excess optical ground wire (OPGW) capacity on the TSOs’ networks, (iii) determine what changes are required in the national telecommunications and energy frameworks within and between countries to operationalize infrastructure sharing, and (iv) develop an action plan to advance infrastructure sharing in the region that addresses the technical, organizational, and regulatory bottlenecks in each country. The review of the policy and regulatory frameworks revealed that all six countries have transposed the relevant EU directives into their energy laws to enable TSOs to engage in infrastructure sharing, andwholesale broadband services (defined as “dark fiber” in the pre-feasibility studies) are not regulated ex ante anywhere in the region. Some countries have legislation to manage dispute resolution in infrastructure sharing and others do not, and in all but Kosovo*, electronic communications services are not subject to official procurement procedures, offering potential players more market flexibility. Finally, no limitations on public-private partnerships were found in the legislation of any of the countries, which is useful when a combination of public and private funds is needed. These relatively few legislative obstacles could easily be eliminated to create more uniform conditions for the development of infrastructure-sharing services across the region.

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Document type
  • Report


Publication Year


Geographical focus
  • WBC
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin on December 19, 2019
Modified on December 19, 2019