A fully operational home office, including working parents and school-age children who all want to use videoconferencing? Then a stable internet connection is crucial, and fibre optics offer a solution. Even during this time, our business unit FttX continues their work on fibre optic connections in the Netherlands.
Niels Kamphuis has been the director of FttX since August 2019 and sees a continuously rising trend in the need for fibre optics. ‘VolkerWessels Telecom had for some time been laying fibre optics under the name FttH: Fibre to the Home. Since a few years the demand has increased enormously, and it was decided to set up a separate business unit for this and to implement a minor name change, FttX: Fibre to the X, where the X stands for everything. In 2018 we started the first projects in outlying areas, but last year we made really great strides. It looks like we are able to implement fibre optic connections in more than 150,000 homes in 2020.’
The aim is to install fibre optics throughout the Netherlands, so that households that choose a fibre optic subscription can be connected quickly. However, you cannot lay fibre optic cables just anywhere. ‘For low-rise buildings it’s easy to lay fibre-optic cables in the streets, as you do not need to get past the front door until someone chooses fibre optics. For flats and apartment complexes this is more difficult because residents have to give permission. This is regulated differently for each corporation or owners’ association.’ Nevertheless, Niels can recommend fibre optics to anyone. Especially in this period, but also in the future. ‘Fibre optics provide a higher bandwidth, which is certainly welcome when you’re at home with the whole family. But it’s also ideal for the business world to send all data from A to B and to reach employees properly. And what about video calls with family in an outlying area or even abroad?’
Some 5.5 million homes still need to be fitted with fibre optics, so we have our work cut out for us in the coming years. FttX is certainly not inactive at the moment, but with the necessary precautions. ‘Fortunately, we’re simply carrying on, but the corona crisis also brings challenges for us. If you lay a cable in a trench with 5 to 6 people, you have to make good arrangements with each other about how everyone keeps enough distance. We also spread during lunch and have stuck on stickers spaced 1.5 meters apart in the hut.’
But during the corona crisis, you need to find smart solutions with customers as well. ‘Some customers are nervous about us entering their home, so we involve them in the process both before and during the work. Our Customer Service Desk sends information by post and contacts customers by telephone, and the fitter runs an LMRA (Last Minute Risk Analysis) during the visit. We keep telling people what we’re doing, and that gives people confidence about the execution.’ On the other hand, Niels also notices that fibre optic welders and fitters are in fact now being welcomed with open arms. ‘People find out that their internet connection is not fast enough. They call regularly to ask if we could please come right now!’