Corridors in the EU bubble often witness debates about the European Digital Decade goals and the Commission’s communication goals: from policy to investment decisions, some debates can even get heated.
This post puts them aside for a moment. The ETNO team spent a day with the fiber workers currently digging the streets to bring gigabit networks to your home, as well as to offices, SMEs and corporate headquarters. As we present our new video series #FibreStories, let the ETNO team explain what it takes to bring gigabit connectivity to everyone. This is a lot of hard work, sweat and, of course, quite an administrative burden.
Early in the morning, a street
October 2022, Brussels: It’s 5 a.m. and the alarm goes off. It’s still dark outside, cold and the weather forecast is for moderate rain during the day. For Mark, it’s just a normal day at his job on the streets of Brussels.
At 6:45 a.m., he and his teammates beat the rush hour and are already on Rue de Parme in Brussels to begin preparations. It’s their first day on the new street, just a few blocks from the job site, which was completed last week.
Today begins with the hard part of the job: digging the sidewalks. Here you can follow what it takes and what it means. The excavator starts working around 7 am to prepare the trenches where the new fiber cable infrastructure will be laid. Earlier, copper cables were stronger and thus easier to manage than today’s fiber cables, which are thinner and more susceptible to damage. But the payoff is huge: the internet speed will be at least 20 times faster.
After drilling comes the wiring
The work of Mark and his team will not be done in a day. After going through the pain of digging trenches and laying cables, fiber must go into facades and then into homes and apartments.
Here you can see the teams at work making sure the fiber reaches your home. Small-sized distribution boxes and cables are attached to the facades of the building, and the cables are connected in the most modern way by a special machine to connect to the network. This last leg is the shortest: it only takes three hours to connect your apartment to the fiber network.
It can be difficult at times as the final say on installation rests with the landlords and property managers. This is when new digital capabilities can finally enter your home and mark the completion of the project. It also marks the end of the fiber rollout journey in the new housing estate.
Full fiber travel to your home? up to 18 months
Like Marc, there are hundreds of teams in Belgium doing this tough job. Imagine zooming in on the map of Europe: you will see more streets, districts, cities and regions. It gives you an idea of the scale of work required to achieve Europe’s Digital Decade target ambitions: high-speed connectivity for all Europeans.
The above fiber story is only the last part of a long process. On average, it can take up to 18 months to fully complete a new perimeter fiber deployment project. The typical investment decision behind the selection of a particular area is usually made years in advance based on uncertain projections of future demand as well as considerations of expected return on investment.
After making this investment decision, the first step is the inventory of facades and buildings. Each area is different and subject to different local permits. In many cases, the required construction works must be combined with other projects in sectors such as energy, wastewater, transport and other industrial sectors covering infrastructure. This would ensure that the streets would only be dug up once to allow the various companies to intervene.
This is complex and sometimes means red tape that causes delays: fiber specialists have to wait for other construction works to become available, permits have to be carefully synchronized and, for example, investments have to be commissioned on time. Only after all the investment decisions are made and all the planning is done can Europe’s fiber workers really hit the streets and start delivering.
Reaching link goals means reaching you
The story we are living on the streets of Brussels is happening every day at the European level: all European operators are investing to reach the target of 150 billion euros, which is the amount required to bring fiber to the homes of more than 70 percent of Europeans. If you are one of them, the story above may sound familiar. Otherwise, a new wave of investment efforts by telecom operators and the hard work of fiber teams will bring fiber to your door in the coming years.
To achieve the EU’s Digital Decade goals, the fiber story needs to be replicated in all regions of Europe. Mark’s team could add several hundred Europeans to those empowered by FTTH. Bringing it to 450 million Europeans means more work lies ahead: it’s the hard work behind Europe’s exciting Digital Decade goals.