Last year the number of Dutch fibre connections passed the three million mark, while the German government announced €12 billion in funding to turbocharge its nationwide rollout of fibre to homes and businesses.
But while investment in laying down new infrastructure and building new networks is welcomed, a looming question remains about how to make the most of such infrastructure once it has been laid – in other words, utilising as much of the installed capacity as possible.
Back in 2003, Jan Willem Tom was asking himself the exact same question. The answer? Dark fibre.
“Dark fibre is the basic platform for a private, future-oriented network,” he explains. “Because fibre optic networks are widespread in the Netherlands and Germany, you do not have to construct your own network from scratch.
“In many cases, an existing network can be used and only the last mile to the location needs to be excavated. Based on the equipment you have chosen, you can construct a private network that meets all your requirements using existing fibre optic infrastructure.
” This is the basic premise from which Tom formed what is now known as Relined Fiber Network. Some 17 years on, he still serves as the organisation’s Managing Director and is determined to continue its mission of putting unused fibre optic capacity onto the market, especially his home market in the Netherlands and now Germany.
Indeed, today Relined stands as an internationally renowned player in the dark fibre realm for two key reasons.
First, because the company leverages the capacity of already-laid networks without having to make large investments, it can offer cost-effective, reliable solutions across a wide territory.
“This leads into the second reason why we are uniquely positioned,” adds Tom. “We are the only company to have a nationwide network at our disposal in both the Netherlands and Germany, and we are increasingly able to access the international market.
“We can reach pretty much any location. The biggest internet nodes in Europe – Amsterdam and Frankfurt – are connected to our network, including the major data centres.
“Relined Fiber Network delivers your fibre optic connection from A to B in the form of stable, reliable dark fibres belonging to public and/or private networks. Together with our preferred suppliers, we have more than 30,000 kilometres of high-grade fibre optic infrastructure. This means nationwide, fine-meshed dark fibre networks.”
The major beneficiaries of this are large enterprises that require stable, reliable and secure connections which are easily scalable.
Typical Relined customers include data centres, network suppliers, ISPs, hosting companies and system integrators, as well as organisations in the wholesale, healthcare and public sectors, all of which are served with transparency and professionalism – two key pillars of the firm’s approach to business.
The last few years in particular have seen more clients use Relined’s expertise in Germany. In 2017, a dedicated division (Relined GmbH) was formed to focus on service delivery in what Tom believes is a market full of potential.
“The required fibre optics are in place, but the networks were built by different and often unrelated regional and local operators,” he adds. “Consequently, the fibre optic landscape in Germany is fragmented and the networks are not optimally used.
“Relined sees opportunities here and aims to link these networks together and make them available to the market, supplying a one-stop shop connection from A to B.”
In 2018, the company signed a milestone partnership agreement with large fibre network operator NGN.
Tom goes on to explain how the relationship is very much a symbiotic one, with Relined able to use its expertise to market NGN’s network to new customers and manage new contracts, while also helping the parties to connect with smaller regional networks at the same time.
Beyond Germany, the firm is also delivering dark fibre connections to Denmark via a subsea cable from the Netherlands, a move which opens up access to the rest of Northern Europe and the UK.
The breakthrough with NGN in particular highlights the critical nature of collaboration to Relined’s ongoing success story.
From the contractors who perform the last-mile groundwork to install connections to customers’ premises to the network providers whose infrastructure is leveraged, the ultimate potential of dark fibre can only be realised by several parties working closely together. “Relined has the core competences it needs in house and contracts everything else out to partners,” says Tom. “For example, in the Netherlands we work with contractors such as Van de Beek Kabels & Leidingen, Strukton, AV-Fiber and E&R.
“Adinf provides us with invaluable services in relation to relocations, including support of the civil works. In addition, they handle the permits in Amsterdam, allowing us to guarantee to our customers a short delivery time of one to three weeks between data centres.”
Another highly successful collaboration began in 2017 when Relined expanded its reach by 4,000 kilometres of fibre network thanks to a partnership with BT, activity which has also seen the number of connected Dutch data centres grow from 70 to more than 100, granting access to many business locations.
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