Enjoying Netflix in the train, checking your email from the bed, sending apps to your friends when on holiday. Having an internet connection anytime and anyplace has become so matter-of-course, that you hardly notice it anymore. But think about it, exactly how do videos, texts and phone calls reach you?

Whether you make a call with your smartphone, play a game on your PC or watch TV as a Vodafone or Ziggo customer, it’s all possible because of our networks. So, what are you sending and receiving through these networks? Your content in the form of data. In even simpler terms: your voice, videos and texts transformed into ones and zeros. Those numbers travel across the network between you and the receiver or sender. But a lot happens in the milliseconds between sending and receiving.

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Fixed internet
The journey of your data starts (or ends) in your home, simple. Your devices can be connected with the internet by means of a cable, or wirelessly by Wi-Fi. In the latter case, the signal entering the house by cable is retransmitted as a Wi-Fi signal. That cable is the tail end of our network and is a so-called coaxial cable. Throughout the country an impressive 410,000 kilometres of it are buried in the ground. It adds up to that amount because there are so many small pieces. From the homes the cables run to the grey cabinets you see in the street. Those are our amplifiers, of which we have 440,000. From the amplifiers your data is picked up by optical fibre and transported to one of the many data centres. This fixed network of cables, amplifiers and data centres is what we call our core network.

Mobile = fixed
But how does it work when you’re using your smartphone in a city centre? Then your phone connects directly with one of our transmitter masts. We have thousands of these antennas, which can be between half a metre and three metres high, across the country. Mostly on top of buildings, often hidden from sight by advertising billboards. In other places they have been integrated in the architecture. Like in soccer stadiums, at Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Central Station. All those antennas transmit data through radio waves that are received by your phone. Vice versa your phone also transmits radio waves which are picked up by the transmitter mast. From the transmitter mast your data’s journey is similar to that of your fixed internet connection – it ends up in our core network again of cables, amplifiers and data centres. Around 98% of all our communication is handled by our core network and only about 2% goes over the air between devices and transmitter masts. By the way, your data has still only been a few milliseconds on its way since it was sent.

Across the network
Upon arrival in our data centres, your data travels with the speed of light across our optical fibre network. It passes several types of equipment that process all the information in the right way. The one handles voice, the other videos or text messages. Optical fibre processes this so fast that you don’t notice it as a user. Data centres on opposite sides of the country communicate with each other without any latency. All thanks to our network of 38,500 kilometres of optical fibre.

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Connected with the world
Once processed, our core network sends your data through amplifiers and coax or transmitter masts to the final destination. But what if your recipient has another provider? Then we send the data to that provider’s core network. The provider knows where the recipient is, so it will send the data to a transmitter mast in his area. And what if your recipient is in Australia? For that reason we are linked with the rest of the world through thousands of kilometres of optical fibre cables thick as fire-hoses. Our link with the world is located in Amsterdam, among other places, where the AMS-IX data centre is, one of the largest internet hubs worldwide. Our parent company Liberty Global has a European network there. From here, we transmit data to core networks abroad, from Germany to Australia.

Towards one network
Of course, it’s a continuous effort to improve (the efficiency of) the transmission of your data. For instance by merging the networks of Vodafone and Ziggo. Because of smart connections, your data will shortly travel through a single core network, irrespective of your subscription of either Vodafone or Ziggo. This merger is interesting for us as a provider but also for you as a customer. We will have more opportunities to counterbalance any problems occurring in a different part of the network. And as a result, you will have an even better connection. And this is how your data chooses the fastest journey through our network.

Read more about GigaNet, the powerful network of Vodafone and Ziggo.