The Vodafone and Ziggo networks are located throughout the Netherlands, visibly and invisibly. They are made up of thousands of transmitter masts and antennas that transmit data across the country through radio waves. From data centres with countless cabinets that process voice, SMS, data and much more, bringing those data through tens of thousands of kilometres optical fibre and coaxial cable and our mobile network to our customers. And from all those little grey cabinets in the street that pass on the TV, internet and radio signal to the home. Everything is already installed and in place, but still we spend millions of euros on it each year. Why? And where does all that money go to?
The things you possess deserve to be serviced. Cabinets need to remain operational, broken cables must be fixed and transmitter masts must be regularly inspected. A small army of servicemen monitor our networks 24/7, each and every day of the year. We guarantee their safety by investing in certification of all the locations they work at. Even when networks function perfectly, they still cost money. Think about electric power. Keeping all the equipment operational in 2019 costs approximately 16 million euros. And these energy costs increase every year. All in all, maintenance and keeping our networks on air costs about 200 million euros per year.
Up-to-date year after year
And those other millions of euros? A part of them is spent on improving our equipment. Once every few years we replace equipment to bring it up to standard with the latest technology. 5G for example, was first implemented on existing transmitters, but for the best coverage we also install new equipment as we go along. Although new transmitters may not even be more expensive than the old ones, we quite often need more of them. For one simple reason: the continuous increase in data usage by our customers. On a yearly basis more than 30% on the fixed network and an impressive 70% on the mobile network. For that reason we invest about 30 million euros each year in software and hardware and in the capacity of our networks.
Increased cable speeds each year
The fixed part of the Vodafone and Ziggo networks mainly consists of optical fibre. In addition to that, there are also 410,000 kilometres of coaxial cable to households in the Netherlands. Improving the capabilities of that cable is a continuous effort. During a two-year operation for example, we are shutting down the analogue signal, region by region. This creates cable space to accommodate even more internet data. And in doing so, we also check the entire Ziggo network and equip the street cabinets with the latest technology. In this way we lay the foundation for superfast cable internet. It enables downloading at 1 Gigabit per second.
Recently, we started offering even higher download and upload speeds by cable, thanks to new modems that operate on the so-called Docsis 3.1 standard. The Dutch city of Utrecht was the very first to experience this, and that was only be the beginning. We are looking at new technologies that enable faster data transmission by cable, up to 10 Gigabit per second for uploading and downloading. To realize that we need considerable investments. We need, for example, to replace thousands of nodes and amplifiers– the grey street cabinets – that pass on the signal. In this project alone we are investing a total of 200 million euros.
More VodafoneZiggo each year
Another important step in improving the efficiency of our networks is merging the networks of Vodafone and Ziggo. Behind the scenes they are still operating separately. The Vodafone network handles the mobile data traffic, the Ziggo network takes care of the Wi-Fi, TV and radio signal. Up until the cabinets in the street (Ziggo) and the transmitter masts (Vodafone) both networks are technically identical. In principle the cables, hardware and software of both networks can therefore handle each other’s traffic flow. When you merge the two networks, the aggregate will be a lot more efficient. This is a huge technical project we are investing 75 million euros in, of which we will reap the benefits later.
Each year a step closer to the network of the future
In short, each year we invest hundreds of millions of euros in the network of the future. As a result, our networks remain operational 24/7, all year long. And Vodafone and Ziggo customers experience stable and fast internet at all times. But of course there is always room for improvement, hence the upgrades of our networks: higher speeds, a robust infrastructure behind the scenes, improving our 5G and now the merger of the Vodafone network and the Ziggo network. Each and every year we invest and improve, approaching the network of the future step by step.