Spotlight on Belgium
After cable, Brussels invests in optical fibre
By Eric Ravenne | Monday 17 January 2011
Belgium has a relatively highly developed infrastructure in terms of fixed networks. In this small but densely populated country, most households have access to the coaxial network (cable television) and/or the copper network (DSL), on which downloading speed is constantly increasing. At the end of 2009, nearly three-quarters of the population had potential access to downloading rates of 20 Mbps on the copper network.
The country has nevertheless tackled the development of optical fibre with a view to achieving much higher downloading speeds. “Bringing optical fibre to every room in the house will be an absolute necessity over the longer term,” particularly with high-definition coming into general use, according to the digital strategy being implemented by the outgoing Belgian government.
The equipment required for fibre networks must be built into all new constructions. Officials are also considering pre-installing empty pipes during road works that require opening up the streets, in order to reduce subsequent installation costs. A working group (‘SuperfastBelgium’) that includes operators and the public authorities has been put in place.
The strategy has started to produce results. According to data provided by Telecommunications Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgium is one of the world’s top five for fibre-to-the-curb deployment (FTTC), with the connection to the building still copper-based.
For fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), the incumbent operator Belgacom is working on several pilot projects in different locations in the country. The Flemish cable TV operator Telenet, Belgacom’s competitor mainly in the Northern part of the country for fixed telephony, TV and internet, is deploying the hybrid cable/fibre technology Eurodocsis 3.0.