dstelecom: we bring the digital network to the Portuguese people

dstelecom builds “digital highways” to the most remote points of the country so that everyone has access to state-of-the-art fiber network coverage, and thus, to be a pole of attraction for “settlement of people and investment in this territory.” Ricardo Salgado, CEO of dstelecom, explains the innovative projects of the highly technological company and the goals for 2024, with coverage of 1000,000 homes in areas with low population density.


How did dstelecom's journey begin?

dstelecom is a telecommunications operator.

We were born in 2008, with the aim of building a fiber optic backbone network to connect 11 municipalities in the North of Portugal.

In 2010, we won the international public tender, launched by the Portuguese Government, for the construction and operation of a new generation fiber network with FTTH capillarity in 44 municipalities in the North and 35 in Alentejo and Algarve, a project concluded at the end of 2013 with more than 250,000 homes covered by our first construction phase. We were considered the first and largest wholesale telecommunications operator in Europe.

Today, 10 years later, we have surpassed the target of 750,000 homes covered in around 140 municipalities and we have all Portuguese retail operators, fixed and convergent, as customers, which speaks well of the neutrality and transparency of our networks and our business. We have a construction plan in progress that foresees that during 2024 our network will cover around 1 million homes.


How does dstelecom operate in the national market and with what skills?

As a wholesale operator, we ended up building a network that is state-of-the-art in world technology in areas where our customers did not yet have a network. Which means, municipalities with lower population density, where there was no economic rationale for our customers to invest in fiber networks and, therefore, where there were only telecommunications infrastructures with significant technological limitations, such as copper or satellites, to benefit from a new generation fiber network.

With our multi-operator fiber infrastructure, families and companies in the municipalities where we have our fiber are now able to choose any service, without any limitation or discrimination against a wide range of services from all retail operators operating in Portugal. We are, therefore, a wholesale telecommunications operator, which operates open and neutral multi-operator networks.

As a result of our customers already having fiber networks in the centers of large cities, we ended up specializing in territories with lower population density. I am convinced that these digital highways will do more to retain people and attract investment in these territories than the “asphalt highways promised us”.


dstelecom is focused on fiber optic coverage in the interior regions and with low population density. In this sense, are there other innovative projects that are being implemented?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, there are market reasons, business reasons, which explain the fact that we have specialized in sparsely populated areas. However, just to be clear, we have no technical or know-how limitations to build multi-operator networks in areas with higher population density, quite the opposite.

Innovation is part of dstelecom's DNA. I often say that it is a muscular innovation. We have processes, we have people and we democratize innovation within the company.

We seek to involve as many workers as possible in multidisciplinary teams. We don't want a ghetto innovation.

We have several innovation projects taking place within the company. From sensing fiber cables, to launching a satellite, to developing know-how in edge computing or realizing how we can reuse fiber cable waste.


By 2024, we expect to approach the target of 1,000,000 homes covered in areas that, until our arrival, did not have access to state-of-the-art connectivity services


Social responsibility begins with the attenuation of regional asymmetries between the coast and the interior.
Another focus of the company is social responsibility, which begins with the attenuation of regional asymmetries as its first purpose. What is the company's action plan regarding the impact of good practices in the region, on people's lives and in the social area?

The nature of our business leads us to have a decisive impact on the population that lives in the areas where our network reaches, establishing people and companies and attracting investment.

Additionally, we currently have more than 250 workers and we naturally promote hiring in places where we have our infrastructure.

Finally, every year we launch a series of initiatives and support for the communities where we have a network. For example, we launched the "connect generations" initiative with the aim of ensuring that nursing homes have access to broadband service, thus reducing the loneliness of those who live there.

We collaborated in the creation of the “estou” project, whose objective was to reduce the social isolation of patients hospitalized in SNS hospitals, offering tablets with their own software to make video calls in a simple and intuitive way.

We also seek to provide connectivity to local events. There are many initiatives that we seek to associate with, in the 140 municipalities where we have already reached with our network.


The company pays special attention to sustainability and the concern to minimize the environmental impacts arising from its activity.
What is dstelecom's strategy within this area, but also in terms of projects that fulfill this objective?

ESG is a strong pillar of our business. At dstelecom, we believe that this is the time to build a future where sustainability and a focus on social responsibility are at the heart of our business. We have the opportunity, power and duty to create a more sustainable Planet, positively impact the well-being of the People around us and ensure the Prosperity of our business with ethics and transparency.

At the moment, we even have a worker specialized in this area, entirely dedicated to these issues, who seeks to drive dstelecom towards a sustainable, socially responsible trajectory and with exemplary governance practices, in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

We want to create a better world for everyone today without destroying opportunities for future generations.


Regarding the energy transition, what measures does the company adopt regarding its own logistics and equipment?

In terms of energy efficiency, there are several initiatives that we have been developing in our telecommunication centers.

At the moment, 100% of the energy consumed by our network is green, with 40% supported by solar energy, which is reflected in a reduction of around 20% in energy consumption and approximately 167 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

We replaced all the cooling equipment in our plants to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

As it is a multi-operator infrastructure, our business typology is environmentally efficient, as it avoids duplicating infrastructure and materials and, simultaneously, creates technical and economic synergies.

At dstelecom, "nothing is lost, everything is transformed". And it was with that in mind that we created a working group with a view to giving a new life to fiber cable waste.

By adopting a hybrid working model, we reduce the environmental footprint of our office spaces and reduce the need for many of our workers to commute to the office.

Commuting to work is also more ecological. We implemented car-sharing initiatives among workers and ensured that the public bus route in Braga now passes through our campus.

In our offices, in addition to measuring water consumption, we installed faucets with timers, intelligent irrigation systems and water drums to eliminate the use of bottled water. We implemented recycling and waste sorting programs, replaced disposable cups with reusable cups and bottles, and installed motion-sensing LED lighting, among many joint initiatives, such as planting trees on campus.


At dstelecom, "nothing is lost, everything is transformed". And it was with that in mind that we created a working group with a view to giving a new life to fiber cable waste.


How is business ethics and corporate governance essential for dstelecom and why?

I truly believe that the success we have been achieving over these 15 years is the result of the trust we have gained from our stakeholders. That's why we promote business ethics as the center of our corporate governance. Honesty, trust and fairness are core values.

If you ask me what our greatest achievement is, I would answer that it is the market's trust. I believe that ethics and transparency are key pillars for consolidating this trust.

We have all the national operators working on our network, which is confirmation that we have managed to gain their respect and trust.

At the same time, internally, we promote equal opportunities, remove any barriers or handicaps and actively condemn any type of discrimination. I am one of those who believe in the power of diversity as a strong dynamo for innovation.


Human Capital is one of dstelecom's main assets, how does the company invest in initiatives and activities that promote the well-being of its employees, but also in their training?

As I usually say, at dstelecom, we try to recruit good people and, regardless of the department or function, we always try to have at least three characteristics: curiosity, enthusiasm and optimism. Curiosity to constantly learn; enthusiasm to endure, support and celebrate changes; optimism to transmit a positive aura that allows this change, not only in the person concerned, but in the entire team. If we have people with these qualities in our house, when they are called to participate, they will ask questions and question the status quo, thus provoking reflection and discussion.

Workers are, effectively, our biggest and most important asset, so our business directly depends on the happiness of each one of them. “Happy workers make happy companies”, I never get tired of saying it.

We seek that workers feel joy and happiness with the work they perform. Work does not have to be a sacrifice or a painful part of the day. However, we respect the personal and family life of our workers.

We have implemented a hybrid work regime.

In addition to dozens of benefits in pharmacies, opticians, nutrition clinics and gyms, we provide, on our campus, free access to a health center with doctor and daily nursing services, psychology, dentistry, curative medicine and nutrition.

We promote reading and have ongoing training. Technical courses, soft skills, philosophy, the annual training plan is very dense and varied.

We are really committed to making workers happy, able to grow and fulfill themselves professionally.

In 2022, we were distinguished by the Order of Psychologists, in partnership with ACT and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, with the Healthy Workplaces Awards'22 seal for our strong commitment to managing the psychosocial risks of our workers, as well as promoting conditions that support their health and well-being.

I also highlight the creation of the dstelecom Academy, which arises from the recognition of the importance of training for the growth and development of our workers.


Future: New projects, new implementation areas.

In the near future, what projects are being developed?

Innovation is one of the most important pillars of dstelecom's DNA.

Year after year, the number of innovation projects led by our workers and the scientific community grows.

With eyes on the future, there are several research projects carried out with MIT and several renowned Portuguese universities and institutes.

However, we did not deviate, not even a millimeter, from our purpose. We are focused on expanding the footprint of the FTTH network in Portugal, both in current areas and in neighboring municipalities, and thus contribute to reducing the inequalities that still exist in the country in terms of access to the digital world.

In addition, we are attentive to the tender for coverage of the White Zones and positioned to contribute to the project that will allow full coverage of the country with connectivity services.

By 2024, we expect to approach the target of 1,000,000 homes covered in areas that, until our arrival, did not have access to state-of-the-art connectivity services.

As I mentioned earlier, it makes perfect sense to export this multi-operator business model to 5G or at least 6G. We have been working on this possibility with our customers.


What are the AEROS and K2D projects, what are the objectives and how will they be implemented?

Year after year, the number of innovation projects led by our workers and the scientific community grows. AEROS aims at monitoring the surface of the land and the ocean through a communications system between satellites and the earth. We aim to launch a small satellite in early 2024.

With regard to K2D, the project aims to monitor the depths of the ocean by developing sensors for installation in submarine cables. We are currently carrying out a pilot test on the ZLT Infante D. Henrique, but the next steps will involve installing a new submarine cable with greater monitoring capacity.


Still looking to the future, how does dstelecom's future path look like, what are the new areas of participation and new geographies?

Our Vision is to free people from geographic barriers, building digital highways and a digital world. Therefore, in our strategic plan, we plan to continue to grow with FTTH networks.

It makes perfect sense to export this multi-operator business model to 5G or at least to 6G and we have been working on this possibility with our customers. I usually say that dstelecom builds the highways and the operators only have to worry about building the cars, which is to say, with the production of content.

We want to capitalize on the confidence that we have in the Portuguese market and be an active partner in the management and sensing of the new submarine cables that will connect the continent to the Azores and Madeira archipelagos, mitigate geographical barriers with satellite communications – and, therefore, We are actively involved in a Portuguese consortium for the launch, in January 2024, of a small satellite into space, the purpose of which is to learn how to provide connectivity to highly remote areas. Finally, we want to develop this business in other geographies.

That is, we will seek to continue to grow by land, air, sea and space, in any region of the planet.


Ricardo Salgado,

CEO of dstelecom


Source: País Positivo