You turn off the last lights, time to go to bed. But for a dozen or so VodafoneZiggo employees it signals the beginning of their working day. Three weeks ago, you stopped receiving an analogue TV signal on your digital cable. Tonight, they will transform your cable into a superfast conductor for the digital signal. To that end they are ready to get going, not only at the central office in Utrecht, but also on location, at the many regional switches that direct the digital signal towards your cable.
Their nighttime work is part of a mega operation by VodafoneZiggo to rearrange cable frequencies. Since the disappearance of the analogue signal, that cable has become like Swiss cheese. For each channel, the analogue signal took up the same amount of space as approximately 12 digital channels. By rearranging the cable, reordering the space formerly occupied by the analogue signal, an enormous amount of bandwidth is freed up. That results in an even faster, more stable and smarter network.
Switch and learn
Three weeks prior to such a nighttime operation, the analogue signal in the specific region is already switched off. Something which didn’t go by unnoticed by some Ziggo customers. This group, no more than 5% of customers, the last remaining group not to watch digital TV, had to reprogram their TV channels.
"We do strive to involve everyone in the switch-over," says spokesman Hans den Heijer. "For that reason we have adopted a region by region approach. The region Capelle aan de IJssel was first in line. That is a relatively small region with a few tens of thousands of inhabitants. It was a perfect test to experience how the cable ánd the public reacted to the change and to learn from it. By switching over one group of users after the other, in a phased approach, we can also intervene faster should a signal turn out to be missing after all."
Inform and assist
In most households no assistance is needed. Hans: "Well before the switch is carried out, all Ziggo customers in that region receive not only an email but also a letter. In addition, local news media are also informing them about what is about to happen. And our website tells you how to switch over your television in order to receive the digital signal. We pay extra attention to groups that are more likely to watch analogue TV. Senior citizens' associations for example, have been informed beforehand. They can redirect senior citizens with their questions to us. Our call centres and serviceman are on stand-by for customers that do need additional help. Our shop personnel too has all the knowledge and skills to assist people."
Prisons and hospitals
In offering help servicemen even end up in prison or in hospital. "Only to visit", assures network project manager Martijn Wissema. "Those places often have many old televisions that need a manual switch-over or an additional box. The real challenge, however, is that the televisions there are built-in. In hospitals they are often mounted to the ceiling. In prisons they are even bricked up with glass in front. The televisions of customers we visit at home are more accessible, fortunately. The challenge there is mainly the quality of the cables indoors. Old cables can result in failures, not only in the cable itself but also due to external signals. We solve that by resetting channels, per region and where needed, on different frequencies. In that way we offer tailor-made solutions to customers."
Tackle and fast internet
But what about that fast internet? "We are now laying the foundation for that," says Martijn. "For extra fast internet over cable you need a reliable network. Now that we are checking all our cables, amplifiers and modems in the switch-over, we can also identify weak spots. Those we address, prior to them resulting in a failure." This is why VodafoneZiggo has achieved 40% more internet capacity this last year with a more reliable cable network. Half the Ziggo customers are already profiting from that. Next year, it will be the other half’s turn. And the only thing they need to do for that, is sleep tight.