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“Our economy and future depend on fiber optics, so we can step up our game”

by News Room
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In the future, fast and stable internet will be crucial in society. Yin Oei, CEO of the Living Tomorrow innovation campus, knows better than anyone the risk Belgium is taking on lagging behind in the deployment of fiber optic connections.

Some people dream the future, others create it. Yin Oei, CEO of Living Tomorrow Innovation Campus, is such a person. Together with his colleagues and more than 100 partners, he develops visionary projects that show how we will live and work in a few years. They become tangible at Vilvoorde’s innovation campus, which has a digital experience center where visitors can experience the future.

One of the factors behind the coming decades is fast and stable internet. “The European Union calls this the Gigabit Society and wants to be able to connect all European households to at least 1 Gbps Internet by 2030. This is necessary because without this connection we cannot use the innovations we visualize in Living Tomorrow,” says Oei.

Automatic help from home

Many of these innovations can be found in Belgian homes, says Oei. “We are moving towards the Internet of Everything, where all devices have sensors. Our house automatically adapts to our needs, from dishwashers that automatically order detergent tablets when needed, to the iris scan at the door that measures whether you have certain diseases.”

For example, the Digital Experience Center has a digital wall whose landscape represents the visitor’s health. If the sun is shining, all is well, but if the water in the landscape is cloudy, the visitors are dehydrated.

“The input comes from the devices around us, and based on them, you can automatically receive a doctor’s advice or make an appointment with a doctor in the future. You don’t drive there with your own car, but with an autonomously driving shared car, which is automatically at your door. Of course, all data has to travel back and forth, and for that you need sufficient bandwidth,” says Oei.

We also need the same high-speed internet for VR headsets, which we use to entertain ourselves or make our home energy-friendly. “The house of the future will respond even more to our needs, for example by heating or cooling automatically depending on who is at home. You can also see the same in companies where people use raw materials and people more intelligently. Logistics companies can thus reduce their operating costs, but the necessary computing power must be able to process in real time.

28 percent fiber optic coverage

In the distant past, Yin Oei himself was a network engineer who helped pioneer the installation of the Internet through fiber optic cables. – It was such a unique event at the time that we took a photographer with us. This included an almost kilometer-long bridge from the production plant to the headquarters, where data could be processed incredibly quickly. I remember we said at the time that this would never be possible for ordinary people, but here we are now. It’s actually madness.

“Fiber optics is the only technology that will improve our information infrastructure and our internet connection.”

Yin Oei

CEO van Living Tomorrow

According to Living Tomorrow, a European Gigabit Society plan is necessary, but Belgium is lagging behind neighboring countries.

Oei: “Fiber optics is the only technology that will improve our data infrastructure and internet connection, but in 2023 only 28% of Belgian households already had fiber optic coverage. In Holland this is 81%, in France 84% and in Romania even 96%. Our economy and our future depend on this, so we can improve our game.

This is also what Federal Minister of Telecommunications Petra De Sutter says: “With the approval of the Gigabit infrastructure regulation, we clearly show that we want to promote the introduction of high-speed networks. Thanks to fiber optics and 5G, our citizens can surf faster and have a better digital experience. Since we are lagging behind in the introduction of optical fibers in Belgium compared to the rest of Europe, we are very pleased that parties like Fiberklare are investing in building an open fiber network.

At Fiberklare, which wants to connect as many homes and businesses as possible with fiber optic technology, the feedback is positive. CEO Jo Van Gorp: “We are very positive about this new law and are proud to be able to advance connectivity goals through the construction of our fiber optic network.”

Oei: “I believe that the European guidelines to connect all households to high-speed internet by 2030 are feasible. Consumers also expect such connections. And we are catching up in Belgium, but there is clearly more work to be done.

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