INTERVIEW: GEERT STANDAERT
“4.2 million homes and businesses on the fiber network by 2028.”
Proximus is accelerating the rollout of its fiber and 5G networks. What everyone describes as ‘the network of the future’ is already becoming a reality. And that immediately opens up a wide range of possibilities. Interview with Chief Technology Officer Geert Standaert.
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 those collaborations? “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.”
GEERT STANDAERT Chief Technology Officer
Geert Standaert is responsible for IT development, service engineering and technical infrastructure.
“The support among cities and municipalities is a crucial factor in the rollout of fiber.”
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.” 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.”
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.”
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.” 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.”
Volvo-fabriek versnelt productieproces dankzij fiber De Volvo-fabriek in Gent bestaat uit een grote ‘hoofdfabriek’ met daarrond een vijftal magazijnen en bijhuizen. IT Infrastructure Engineer Geert De Meyer: “Die bijhuizen hebben we via fiber met de hoofdfabriek geconnecteerd, zodat de productiesystemen voortdurend in contact kunnen komen met die magazijnen om aan te geven welke onderdelen wanneer nodig zijn. In een zo’n bijhuis worden bijvoorbeeld de motoren gebouwd. Het is natuurlijk absoluut cruciaal dat de juiste motor wordt geleverd precies op het moment dat de juiste wagen hem nodig heeft. Heel dat proces verloopt just in time.”
These companies switched to Fiber
Did you know that companies that use innovative networks such as fiber can increase their productivity by 10%? Read these 3 testimonials.
Secure and quick backups
Cafca develops software with which construction companies, installers and electricians can streamline their administration and orders. The company forwards backups to an external data center via fiber every evening. So Cafca can really use as high a bandwidth as possible.
Accelerates its production process
The Ghent Volvo plant consists of a large main factory that is surrounded by five warehouses and annexes. The annexes are connected to the main factory with a fiber network so that the manufacturing systems are in constant contact with the warehouses to signal which parts are needed when.
CEMENT GROUP CBR
Introducing bandwidth everywhere
For cement group CBR, installing fiber is especially important for guaranteeing that all its branches have the highest bandwidth possible, even in the most remote places. Fiber also revealed other benefits. It is now much easier for CBR to allow employees to telework.
The 4 network technologies for the digital economy
What fiber means for the fixed line, 5G means for mobile. Together with edge computing and Software-Defined Networks, they form the infrastructure on which the digital transformation takes shape.
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.
With 5G there is virtually no latency. That makes 5G ideally suitable for self-driving cars, automatic drones and a great many IoT applications, such as smart meters, wearables and vehicle tracking. Owing to the high capacity, 5G is also suitable for high definition video and applications based on virtual reality.
Edge computing literally means that data are processed close to the data source, like the end user or a car. This shortens the response time. And time fills an important role in, for example, securing self-driving cars.
SOFTWARE-DEFINED NERTWORK (SDN)
Today, networks need to adapt to users, so that, wherever they are, users can gain applicative access in real time. This calls for boosted responsiveness. The solution is to let the software take the upper hand over the hardware.