Talking with KPN
Attema interviewed Bart Bouwman, project manager with KPN. Bart is, among others, responsible for upgrading the copper network to pair bonding.
“KPN works in a competitive market featured by a permanent struggle for more bandwidth. The need for this, both for private and business consumers, is still increasing every day. Both cable fitters and KPN are looking for methods to link up the available bandwidth with the increasing demand for content. This concerns television and internet applications such as interactive television, telework and the up- and downloading of large files. These are all applications that require a lot of bandwidth. Also KPN is looking for new techniques, one of them being ‘pair bonding’.”
“In the Netherlands, KPN has installed in many homes a telephone connection with two core pairs. This is a relict from the past when a second connection for a fax or phone number could only be installed using an extra pair of cores. However, these core pairs are not always finished at the ISRA point. ISRA stands for the interface between the KPN infrastructure (IS) and the peripheral equipment of the customer (RA). We now want to use this second core pair to double the speed with which data enter through copper. That is pair bonding, two core pairs are bonded to realise a connection that is twice as fast. This means that more utilities can be supplied through the copper network. Think of faster internet or HD and, in a later stage, 3D-television. A substantial part of all houses in the Netherlands is equipped for pair bonding and KPN will release these addresses in phases.”
“In practice, pair bonding first requires an inspection of the on-site cable finishing. Often, one core pair has never been used for any utility. We call this ‘sleeping copper’. To be able to finish two core pairs properly, we will have to replace the bulk of the ISRA boxes.
“KPN wants to use the replacement of these ISRA’s to integrate a test function with which we can also offer a direct support to our helpdesk. If customers call us about a malfunction, we always ask ourselves whether it is caused by the ISRA connection or by the in-house wiring. In the first event, we will send a fitter to the address at the expense of KPN. In the latter event, the costs are on the customer’s account. Together with Attema we started looking for a solution with which we can support customers with the analysis of their complaint. We wanted a relatively simple and sustainable solution with which we can test our ISRA connections for a long period of time as the electronic requirements will over 30 years be different than the current ones. The solution has been developed in a close and successful cooperation with Attema Special Products. The advantage of this cooperation was that Attema already supplies the ISRA boxes for over 30 years.”
“Next to the test plug, Attema also developed the new ISRA boxes. We’ve developed a model that fits on the existing base plate that is already present in many homes. We also developed a completely new ISRA to replace the entire home installation. The new ISRA’s are equipped with the test plug. With the assistance of our helpdesk, customers can very easily test the two lines themselves. Customers will be guided step by step through this process. The instructions are very simple thanks to a generic colour coding and if customers cannot really see the connection, they can even distinguish between both lines by touch. These are all improvements resulting from KPN’s and Attema’s experience of many years.”
“ We’ve worked out the concept for the new products in a number of brainstorming sessions with Attema Special Products. It was a pleasant cooperation that led to fast results. The Attema engineer knows our product very well, which makes things a lot easier. We deliberately chose for simple products, no high-tech. It concerns products that will be installed statically for – probably – the next dozens of years and we don’t yet know now what kind of signal we will supply through copper in the future. Attema put a lot of energy and effort in the development of these products and that was in the end the decisive motivation to choose once again for Attema Special Products.”
“At KPN, we sometimes say that copper is gold. Next to copper, KPN also contracted Reggefiber for the installation of glass fibre cables. Obviously, the massive introduction of glass fibre will not be realised in a couple of years. It takes time but all the same we don’t want to neglect our customers who do not yet have a glass fibre connection as the demand for bandwidth does increase. We therefore encouraged our suppliers to consider the use of improved copper techniques. KPN switched from a smart follower to an early adapter strategy. We are not afraid to apply in a responsible way new technical developments for our copper network. We still have some time to go with this network, which makes this investment in the ISRA connection a sound one. We are convinced that the possibilities of copper are far from exhausted.”