4.2 million homes and businesses on the fiber network by 2028
Published on 12/10/2020 in Inspire
Proximus is accelerating rollout of its fiber network. What everyone describes as ‘the network of the future’ is already becoming a reality. And that immediately opens up a wide range of possibilities.
Proximus Chief Technology Officer Geert Standaert: “By 2028, Proximus will proactively connect 4.2 million homes and businesses to the fiber network, with a national coverage of seventy percent. Corona has not thwarted that ambition at all; quite the contrary.”
Proximus is setting up joint ventures for that accelerated rollout. Why the choice for collaboration?
“Parallel collaborations give us extra capability. While we primarily specialize in installing fiber connections in densely-populated areas, we’re looking for a cooperation with partners who are completely comfortable in less-populated environments. So there’s a good synergy.”
Which areas or customers are first in line?
“Many of the industrial zones and large business clusters are already connected to the fiber network. Now we’re focusing on the cities too. We’re starting from the densely-populated areas and expanding outward. We notice great enthusiasm among local governments. They’re aware that fiber contributes to the quality of life of their residents and increases the appeal of their city.”
Fiber and 5G contribute to the aspirations of cities to develop into smart cities. Could you explain that further?
“Fiber and 5G offer new possibilities in the areas of mobility, safety and climate, among other things. A city like Leuven makes full use of new digital technologies to address its challenges. By measuring more, and more exactly, applications emerge that benefit the climate, safety and mobility. A good example is the measurement of excess noise with the aid of special sensors, for a targeted approach to noise pollution. A stable and fast internet connection is indispensable for this.”
What role do public authorities play practically in the rollout of the fiber network?
“Infrastructure works usually take place mainly at the local level. Now we’re providing the entire country with new cabling in a few years’ time. So the local authorities play an important role in facilitating those works. That requires an intensive collaboration, with respect for people and the environment. In addition, these works have a direct social added value, since they offer employment to about 3000 people.”
The support among cities and municipalities is a crucial factor in the rollout of fiber.
Geert Standaert - Proximus Chief Technology Officer
Proximus is opening up its fiber network to everyone. How does that fit into the strategy?
“When you bring fiber to everyone in Belgium, the construction costs are higher in certain areas. Giving other players access to the Proximus network too increases the return on those efforts. It’s an open network approach that we’re applying to 5G too. The differentiation is no longer in who owns the network, but in the added value of the services that each provider offers there.”
Why is Proximus focusing on fiber technology?
“Fiber is the best technology for fixed networks by far. Fiber exchanges data by means of light signals, which results in very high speeds. In addition fiber has an enormous bandwidth. And that opens up possibilities for a pay-as-you-grow model. Today a company can get started relatively inexpensively without using the full power of fiber. As the company grows, the need for network capacity and bandwidth will increase too. Fiber can easily take up this increased demand.”
“Another, bigger advantage is the much higher response speed, while the quality, security and reliability are always ensured. Fiber is the foundation for allowing existing applications to work faster and more efficiently, and paves the way for future technologies. Everyone will want it, sooner rather than later.”
What added value does fiber offer practically for the business community, SMEs and public authorities?
“Corona has given tremendous momentum to digital collaboration. Fiber raises the quality of videoconferences to a higher level, without delays or image disruptions. It increases the accessibility of cloud applications and business-critical applications.”
“The high response speed is a must for many existing and future applications that contribute to our sustainability, mobility, security and recreation, from self-driving cars to compelling viewing experiences or smart street lighting. It’s apparent that the business community is embracing fiber in practice too. In the industrial zones that have already been connected, fifty percent of companies switch over within a year.”
Fiber is the foundation for allowing existing applications to work faster and more efficiently.
Geert Standaert – Proximus Chief Technology Officer
What fiber means for the fixed line, 5G means for mobile. How far along are we with this today?
“We’ve always been the first to introduce the next ‘G’ in the past, and launched 5G connectivity for professional and residential customers this spring. Pending the final spectrum allocations next year, we’re already initiating several pilot projects.”
“A striking example is the port of Antwerp, which uses 5G to connect tugboats with each other and the port or to deploy drones for quay inspections. You also notice overall that many companies and public authorities are eager to launch 5G applications.”
Just as there was once resistance to Wi-Fi and 4G, 5G is encountering opposition from certain quarters. What is your position on this?
“Changes are always accompanied by uncertainties. We’re aware of the sensitivities with which local administrations are dealing. Naturally we comply with the radiation standards that are established in regional legislation and we follow the international guidelines. But it remains important to ensure clarity and engage in dialog when needed. The academic community and independent experts can also contribute to this. Change management is not just about technology, it also has an important human dimension.”
How does Proximus make the difference in terms of 5G?
“Various 5G projects are the result of the preexisting collaboration among, for example, the network provider, technology players and integrators like Proximus. The pooling of their expertise and knowledge gives rise to a wonderful cross-pollination for the rollout of 5G applications. That collaboration is part of the DNA of Proximus. In addition, our innovation, knowledge and expertise make the difference. Thanks to an array of network technologies, with fiber and 5G leading the way, we offer our customers a total solution.”
What other developments do you identify at the network level?
“Edge computing will become even more important. It brings storage and data processing closer to the customer. And a Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) makes it possible to easily move applications around the network infrastructure.”
As CTO at Proximus, Geert Standaert is responsible for IT development, service engineering and technical infrastructure.