The corridors of the EU bubble are often the scene of debates on the objectives of the European digital decade and on the connectivity objectives of the Commission: from policy to investment decisions, some arguments can even get heated.
This article puts them aside for a moment. The ETNO team spent a day with the fiber workers who are currently digging the streets to bring gigabit networks to your home as well as offices, SMEs and corporate offices. As they launch a new video series called #FibreStories, let the ETNO team explain what it takes to bring gigabit connectivity to everyone. It’s a lot of hard work, sweat and, of course, some administrative burden.
Early in the morning, one street at a time
October 2022, Brussels: It’s 5 a.m. and the alarm goes off. Outside still dark, cold and the weather forecast calls for light rain throughout the day. For Mark, it’s a normal working day at his job on the streets of Brussels.
At 6:45 a.m., he and his teammates have beaten the rush hour and are already on site, rue de Parme, in Brussels, to begin preparations. It’s their first day on a new street, a few blocks from the construction site completed last week.
Today begins with a difficult part of the job: digging the sidewalks. Here you can see what it takes and what it means. The excavator starts working around 7 a.m. to make room for the trenches in which the new fiber cable infrastructure will be laid. At the time, copper cables were sturdier and therefore easier to handle than today’s fiber optic cables, which are more delicate and also more vulnerable to damage. But the payoff is huge: Internet speeds will be at least 20 times faster.
After the digging comes the wiring
The work of Mark and his team will not be done overnight. After having experienced the trouble of digging the trench and laying the cables, the fiber must reach the facades and then inside the houses and apartments.
Here you can see the teams at work, while ensuring that the fiber reaches your home. Small-scale distribution boxes and cables are added to the facades of the building, and the cables are spliced using state-of-the-art technology with a special machine to be connected to the network. This last step is the shortest: it only takes about three hours to connect your apartment to the fiber network.
This can sometimes get messy, as the final say on installation rests with property owners and managers. That’s when new digital opportunities can finally enter your home and mark the completion of the project. It also marks the end of the fiber deployment journey in a new residential area.
The fiber route to your home? Up to 18 months
Just like Mark, there are hundreds of teams doing this hard work in Belgium. Imagine zooming out on the map of Europe: you will see many more streets, districts, towns and regions. This gives you an idea of the scale of the work needed to achieve the ambitions of the goal of the European digital decade: high-speed connectivity for all Europeans.
The fiber story above is just the latest part of a long process. On average, the complete completion of a fiber deployment project in a new area can take up to 18 months. The typical investment decision behind choosing a specific area would usually have been made years ago, based on uncertain projections of future demand as well as considerations of expected return on investment.
Once this investment decision has been made, the first step is to make an inventory of facades and buildings. Each area is different and subject to various local permits. In many cases, the civil works required must be coupled with other projects in sectors such as energy, wastewater, transport and other industrial sectors involving infrastructure. This would ensure that streets could only be drilled once, to allow different companies to step in.
It’s complex and sometimes means red tape, leading to delays: fiber experts have to wait for other civil works to become available, permits have to be carefully synchronized and investments made available in a timely manner, by example. Only after all the investment decisions are made and all the planning has taken place, can European fiber workers really take to the streets and start delivering.
Reaching Connectivity Goals Means Reaching You
The story that we live in the streets of Brussels unfolds every day at European level: all European operators are investing to reach the objective of 150 billion euros, the amount needed to bring fiber to the homes of more than 70% of Europeans. If you are among them, the story above may sound familiar. Otherwise, a new wave of investment efforts from telecom operators and hard work from fiber teams will bring fiber to your doorstep for years to come.
To achieve the goals of the EU’s digital decade, the fiber story must be replicated in every district of Europe. Mark’s team could have added a few hundred Europeans to those empowered by FTTH. Bringing it to the premises of 450 million Europeans means there’s still a lot to do: that’s the hard work behind the exciting goals of Europe’s Digital Decade.
#story #gigabit #internet