Competition drives innovation

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More and more companies that provide broadband networks are claiming to offer an ‘open network’. However, what they mean by ‘open’ varies widely. That makes it difficult to determine whether the services they offer actually live up to the required standards. To clarify the matter, Lex Wils, Business Development Manager at Eurofiber, answers the nine essential questions about why open networks are important.

What is an open network exactly?

An open network means that the physical infrastructure is separate from the services that can be offered on it. In other words, other service providers can (also) use the network; the network provider opens the network up to other service providers.

Why is that so important?

Network construction involves significant investments that need to be earned back over a longer time period. In contrast, services change rapidly. That means that service providers do not have to invest in their own network, because they are able to use an established network. The money they save can be invested back into R&D and innovation. In addition, an open network means that it becomes easier to provide services to regions that are less accessible to one specific provider. This makes it possible to achieve a combination of the various network preferences in a region. An open network can provide connections to companies, mobile telephone towers, and possibly also remotely operated bridges and locks. In a closed model, a single provider has to connect a new customer’s location to the provider’s network. But if the customer switches providers, the new provider would have to build its own brand-new network connection. That approach is anything but efficient.

What is the advantage of an open network?

Freedom of choice in terms of services, price, guaranteed quality, and innovation thanks to the presence of competition. In a closed network, in which the infrastructure and the services all come from a single provider, there are no choices. If an organization decides to choose a different provider, their connection is often cut off completely first. Or they may have to pay for two separate connections until the new provider is able to hook the customer up.

Moreover, customers are dependent on whatever services the provider chooses to offer and can only select one of those specific options. The world is so much bigger than that, especially in the context of connectivity and services. In an open network, there is no need to wait until the provider finally starts investing in R&D and all the services are already available. If there are multiple service providers to choose from, supply and demand start to play a role; these market trends always have a positive impact on the services available to the customer. This is because each service provider knows that it is relatively easy for a customer to switch to their competitor. That gives the provider an incentive to ensure his services are optimal. The entire focus is on the services that provider is offering. That’s possible, too, since the provider doesn’t have to worry about extensive maintenance and management activities. That creates room for innovation.

A good network provider gives customers the option to define which level of service they need. Which one a customer chooses depends entirely on his own specific preferences and needs.
Does the customer also have freedom to choose at the infrastructure level?
A good network provider gives customers the option to define which level of service they need. For example, customers can opt for dark fiber, but they could also choose DWDM, Ethernet or IP. Which one a customer chooses depends entirely on his own specific preferences and needs.

Would you like to know more about open networks?

We would be pleased to tell you more about open networks and help you address your challenges in the field of connectivity.

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Why opt for an open network?

Innovation is extremely fast-paced. For that reason alone, it would already be unwise to put your own innovation opportunities into the hands of a provider that has a closed network. The choice of a broadband network is not based on the here and now; instead, it is based on the future and the technological trends and innovations that it brings. In the service world, innovations are popping up so fast, one after the other, that we can already know for sure that the choices offered today will be obsolete in two years. Customers need to be able to switch quickly and innovate if necessary. That requires the flexibility of a smart, open network

Why can’t our country transition to a single, central, open network?

It may sound logical, but in actual fact, it would obstruct innovation. Competition ensures that organizations keep developing and innovating. The same holds true for infrastructure. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the government authorities would do a good job of installing and managing a central network. You don’t want vital maintenance of a fiber optic network that forms the backbone of the country’s entire society to be postponed because the national budget is briefly exhausted, or because electoral considerations take precedence and change the priorities. It is important to take steps when there is a need or demand, not just when the money is available.

Does an open network also have drawbacks?

An open network is not a ‘one-stop shop’. In some cases, that means that a customer will receive several different invoices, for the physical infrastructure and for the services. That distinction is not clear to every organization. Freedom of choice and independence also mean that there is not always a single point of contact, so organizations aren’t always immediately clear about who to contact in the event of a network failure. On the other hand, many network providers are working closely with partners, as a solution to customer demand for that ‘one-stop shop’. You could compare it to the energy market. You sign a contract with an energy provider, and receive a single invoice from that provider, which also includes a calculation of your fee for using the physical infrastructure to transport the energy to the house or company (the standing charge).

Does an open network mean that I myself am responsible for maintaining the network?
No, management and maintenance of a fiber optic network are specialized tasks which are handled by the network owner. A customer signs a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the network provider. How much the network provider manages also depends on what services the customer wants. If the customer opts for dark fiber and lights it himself, then the network provider only maintains the physical network. If a customer also opts for a service like Ethernet, the relevant equipment for that service will also be maintained.

Is an open network easier to hack?

No. The term ‘open’ only refers to how services on the network are opened up to the market. It means that the network can be used for services provided by competitors or partners. It is important for the fiber optic network to be state of the art, fully underground, and monitored to proactively flag any network failures, or to flag any potential unauthorized taps.

Unauthorized taps? Does that mean there are authorized taps?

Some taps are required by the government authorities. If the government has valid reasons for wanting to tap someone’s internet traffic (for instance someone who is suspected of illegal activity), then network providers are required to provide access to the authorities. That only applies to providers that actually provide internet access. Providers that only operate a physical network are not subject to those rules.

Would you like to know more about open networks?

We would be pleased to tell you more about open networks and help you address your challenges in the field of connectivity.

Contact us

This is a Lifeline article brought to you by Eurofiber. The Lifeline platform offers information and inspiration in the field of digital connectivity. Eurofiber.be/lifeline.