12 February 2021 - Our network
KPN is renewing the network of the Netherlands with the massive roll-out of fiber and the introduction of 5G. It aims to ensure the Netherlands to remain one of the best connected countries in the world. In conversation with Babak Fouladi, Chief Technology & Digital Officer and member of the Board of Management of KPN on the importance of a top-notch network, the impact of COVID-19 and the hyper-connected society.
KPN is investing more than 1.1 billion euros annually in networks and services. Is that necessary?
'Yes, a good network requires continuous investments, especially since technology is rapidly evolving and the demand for safe, reliable and fast internet is constantly increasing. As KPN, we will therefore continue to invest to facilitate the data flows of the future. We're accelerating the roll-out of fiber. In doing so, we're helping our customers and the Netherlands with the digitalization that is underway and allowing KPN to grow again. Together with KPN's completely renewed mobile network with 5G, this forms the most modern and powerful network on which the Netherlands can build well into the 21st century.
'Whether it's a pandemic or a blizzard, the Netherlands can rely on excellent networks that keep the country going'
What is the impact of COVID-19 on your network?
'Never before have so many people worked from home and during the pandemic the Netherlands continued to operate thanks to excellent digital networks such as that of KPN. The digitalization of the Netherlands is accelerating and as a telecom operator it is great to contribute to this every day. We were ready, but of course it was a bit tense when we had to process 25% more data traffic overnight. Now it is business-as-usual and we see record after record being broken. But whether it is a pandemic or a blizzard, the Netherlands can rely on excellent digital networks that keep the country going. At the same time, it is becoming more clear than ever how important digital connectivity is, which further underlines the importance of fiber and proves our network strategy is the right one. '
Is fiber really that necessary?
'Absolutely, fiber offers the highest possible upload and download speed, is more stable and reliable and also uses less energy. And since more and more devices in and around the house are directly connected to the internet and all kinds of essential services - from healthcare to education - are digitally supported, this requires very stable connections. Above all, a network must facilitate technological developments instead of limiting them. Fiber is not a bottleneck but a sixteen-lane highway that drives further digitalization of Dutch society. '
'As KPN, we got off to a very good start with the best 5G experience in the Netherlands'
How do you look back on the introduction of 5G?
'With 5G it's not so much about being the first, but about being relevant and offering added value for customers. In fact, you can only bring 5G to the market once, which is why we consciously opted for the 'real 5G' experience based on the 700MHz frequency band. In addition, we have focused on 5G services for business customers. A right choice if you ask me, because despite the fact that we are late in the Netherlands with the availability of the fast 5G spectrum (3.5 Ghz auction is in 2022), we as KPN got off to a very good start with the best 5G experience in the country. Umlaut Connect, for example, gave us the 5G Innovation Award at the end of last year and Ookla recognized KPN's network the fastest 5G network of the Netherlands. And since we are not only introducing 5G, but at the same time renewing our entire mobile network, our customers are also experiencing that their 4G connection is getting much better. It is not without reason that Ookla recently awarded KPN Netherlands' Best Mobile Network.'
How can customers make a difference with 5G?
'As good as the technology is, it's about the applications. What customers can do with it and how 5G can make a difference for entrepreneurs, the business community and society. That has been the guiding principle in our approach, and with the experience from many tests and experiments with customers in our 5G FieldLabs, we are the only operator in the Netherlands and one of the first in the world to make a number of 5G business services available. Services such as guaranteed bandwidth or coverage on demand with which customers can put 5G applications into practice to improve their business model. By reducing for example, the use of raw materials in agriculture, or by increasing the safety of the working conditions in a factory. Or by enabling a flow of green traffic lights for emergency services. That is where the real added value of 5G is for society customers alike. '
'Every euro that you don't have to spend on outdated systems can be invested in the latest technology.'
Are you also going to say goodbye to old technology?
'To be able to keep investing in new technology, you also have to stop investing in old technology. We do this of course carefully and with the least possible customer impact. Every euro that you do not have to spend on outdated systems can be invested in the latest technology. Ultimately, our customers benefit from this by switching to future-proof technology. For example, in recent years we have phased out an outdated technology such as ISDN. In time, we will also phase out the copper network in places where we roll out fiber. It makes no sense to have both networks coexist as more and more customers opt for services based on the latest technologies, and we also save a lot of energy by switching off these legacy technologies. The same is happening in the mobile domain where we will be switching off the older 3G network next year while at the same time introducing 5G as a new technology as of last year.'
Does simplification of KPN go hand in hand with a better customer experience?
'Absolutely, making our business simpler makes us more efficient and this is also good news for our customers. They are in full control of the services they purchase from us via the MyKPN app, which we continuously improve. This makes it for instance very easy to arrange things and also more easy to add new services. And because we are transferring many customers to future-proof technology, we can offer them a comparable experience and service across all channels. So whether it is in the stores or online, by digitalizing we can better serve customers everywhere and make an offer that meets their wishes. Digitalization makes KPN simpler and goes hand in hand with a better customer journey. '