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Aviles, Spain: Connectivity – The Key to a Smart City


Faro de San Juan, Aviles. [Photo by Tomas Fano/whereisasturias.com]

Aviles, adjoining the Bay of Biscay, is an important port city in northwest Spain. Well-known for its architecture in various styles, exquisite sculpture and rich festival activities, it is a city full of charm.

In recent years, Aviles has been transforming from an industrially focused to an innovative city, with a view to emerging as a digitally connected city.

In this process, various projects were implemented in smart governance and mobility. Among them, the "Aviles Connected City" project brings together several innovative initiatives that represent a benchmark model in Spain, the Aviles Model.

These initiatives include free wifi mesh networks in co-locations, deployment of the ToIP network (offering workers and inhabitants IP services of video conferencing and IP telephony) and 24-hour access channels to e-government services.

Aviles has adopted a co-location strategy to equip the entire city with a centralized wireless platform providing services to companies (wireless internet service provider, WISP and operators) as well as a R&D&I (research, development and integration) pilot scene. The strategy also encourages the setting up of local companies in the wireless technologies sector (Wifi, WiMax and VoIP) and development of new mobile wireless services in different sectors, including government, tourism, leisure, and e-business.

The government has experimented with new forms of citizen interaction, such as social networks and e-government. Based on free access to mobile internet, residents can avail themselves of state-of-the-art communication channels in their dealings with the authorities, thus bridging the digital gap.

To ensure smooth progress, Aviles city council acts as a leader, responsible for the design, deployment and monitoring of all initiatives, while the Spanish telecommunications sector regulator (CMT) authorizes the proposed model and communications operators finance the public network by using a part of the wifi network, or by providing infrastructure to support the ToIP network. 

Sponsors, including local advertising companies, are doing their part in the project and support the wifi network financially.

Municipal legal services and the national regulators are ensuring internet security through a "GUIADAS" software that manages mesh network operations and is controlled both by private companies that support and maintain it, as well as municipal organizations. This tool enables the recording, management and resolving of incidents.

The city council's investment in the first phase allowed the project to get started but the model's sustainability is based on external financing that complements municipal investments, which directly reduces the administrative burden on services.

The co-location model was implemented in the deployment of the free wifi mesh network by means of the private investor model (public-private). This model means that the city council is the owner of the infrastructure, but is not involved in any management processes with respect to the end user. 

Operators or third parties that use the wifi network are in charge of it in their capacity as ISPs (internet service providers). The funding received from the private investors enables the network to be self-financing and reduce administrative costs, thus giving rise to a sustainable model.

The initiative strategy is clearly aimed at the design, development, deployment, maintenance and management of a mobile public broadband wireless broadband services network, characterized by technological neutrality and capacity to be used by operators pursuant to a co-location system, which enables maximization of technical and economic resources. 

The project was discredited for its free across-the-city mesh wireless mesh network given that there was nothing like this initiative anywhere in Spain at the time of its deployment in 2008. 

Telecommunications operators put up certain resistance for fear the project would have a detrimental effect on their market. This situation was resolved by means of regulator authorization, technological neutrality and a public tender to guarantee free competition.

Local residents are the largest beneficiaries of the project as it enables them to access internet mobility 24/7, and be better informed thanks to the e-government system. 

Geo-referenced services incorporated in the project attract tourists and investors to the city, creating a big boost to local economic development. Last but not least, the city's image has been greatly improved, drawing in more people and creating better social and economic opportunities.

Remarkable results can also be seen in government work and social development. First, connectivity in public spaces and municipal buildings saves administrative costs and increases services efficiency. Second, the project allows no digital gap, giving more impetus to economic and social progress. Third, it enhances smart management of buildings and public services. Besides, it facilitates public employee mobility, which enables telework and greater functional efficiency.

The sponsor company is continuously enriching the local business fabric by setting up internet mini-sites and services in those areas where there are still none. 

This is the biggest network of its type in Spain, meaning the Aviles Model has become the standard, not to mention a nationwide reference, with respect to public wireless network deployment. To date, the model has been copied by several Spanish cities, including Burgos, Orense, Oviedo, Gijon and Lugo.