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Jean-Marc Vanhove has seen the importance of the network at Carrefour evolve rapidly over the past 15 years. “For a long time, an ISDN connection was enough for batch data processing,” he says. “In the year 2000, we were one of the first companies to switch to MPLS and have round-the-clock contact with the head office.” Over the years, the importance of an available, highperformance network connection has increased steadily. “New needs have emerged,” Vanhove explains. “The warehouses and sales outlets now depend heavily on the connection with the head office. What is more, in the stores we sell a lot via online platforms, such as the National Lottery products and telephone cards.” The need for more bandwidth in general increased constantly, including for voice, video, hotspots for customers, Wi-Fi for the staff, etc.
Proximus examined the Carrefour specifications and put forward a proposal based on fiber, DSL and mobile connections. “A number of different elements eventually led us to opt in favor of Proximus,” says Vanhove. “Proximus not only provides the services, but also actually owns the networks itself. In addition, the scope of the company was important. We were looking for a partner who could take care of the roll-out without any problems.” Finally, the operational conditions proved to be important, too. “Proximus offered us more service and a better SLA, at a price that was lower than the previous network solution.”
In practical terms, all Carrefour Hypermarkets, warehouses and the head office are connected to the Proximus fiber network, with a copper connection as a back-up. The Markets and Express stores are connected via VDSL or ADSL, with 3G or 4G as a back-up. “Proximus takes service seriously,” says Vanhove. “They really allocated the necessary resources to the migration, dealing with 60 installations per week.” The process was thoroughly prepared. “Everything happened in close consultation and following a detailed schedule.” That was absolutely essential, because the project affected the very heart of the company. “The connection between the head office, the stores and the warehouses is particularly critical for the business. Virtually everything goes via the network: cash till data, e-mail, price information, orders, video surveillance, to name but a few.”
By switching to fiber, at a stroke Carrefour has far more bandwidth. “That opens the way for more applications,” says Vanhove. “Much of the telephone system may come onto the network. That goes for digital TV and solutions for digital signage in the stores, too.” In the old environment, Carrefour soon came up against the limits of the network. “Now fiber gives you guaranteed bandwidth at the most business-critical sites. The network is particularly stable and reliable and it has the capacity for us to add a host of other services, too, in the future.”
With 11,500 employees and 750 stores, Carrefour is one of the biggest retailers in Belgium. The company serves 650,000 customers every day here. Threequarters of Belgian families go shopping at Carrefour at least once a week.
Started his career with Gecotec, at the time the IT service company of the GIB Group. Later on, he was Network & PC Unit Manager at GB. Since 2004, Jean-Marc Vanhove has been LAN & Telecom Domain Manager at Carrefour Belgium.
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