KPN starts testing more sustainable fiber optic cabling

Innovation in cable infrastructure makes major savings in the use of raw materials and reduces disruption caused by cable-laying.

In September KPN is starting a pilot scheme for fiber-optic cable made from 90% recycled plastic. Only 10% new plastic is required to manufacture the sleeve that houses the fiber-optic cable. KPN is the first telecom company in Europe to experiment with this.

Laying the cable is more sustainable because of the innovative 4.5 mm cable in a 10 mm sleeve instead of the conventional 6 mm cable in a 14 mm sleeve. This reduces the volume of plastic used by around 50%. The cable and sleeve are thinner too, so a reel can accommodate more, thereby reducing the number of wooden reels required by 70%. This means that roughly six fewer trucks are needed to deliver the materials for the selected 11,000 connections. The total saving for each connection equates to 760 plastic carrier bags.

“KPN has been championing sustainability for many years and we and our partners are studying how we can lay fiber-optic cables more quickly, more sustainably and with less disruption,” says Joost Steltenpool, who is responsible for the KPN fiber optic network. “Our aim is not only to provide top-speed internet to as many people as possible but also to do so as sustainably as possible. That’s what our customers want as well. This new development is yet another contribution towards it.”

“Using smaller, more flexible cables and sleeves puts less of a strain on the generally full cable routes,” says Erik van den Oever, who is in charge of the commercial development of the concept at Prysmian Group. “They are also easier to install and spare sleeves can be reused.”

This innovation has been developed and is being tested in collaboration with KPN partners Allinq, Van Gelder Telecom, Prysmian Group and VolkerWessels Telecom. The pilots are to take place in Buitenpost (Friesland) and Nijmegen Dukenburg. If the results are positive, the innovation will be released for more KPN fiber-optic cable projects.

Fiber rollout target

KPN’s target is to equip more than 40% of Dutch households with fiber optics by the end of 2021. Currently, around 2.6 million households (32%) are connected to the KPN fiber-optic network. KPN is doing this through the large-scale installation of fiber-optic networks and, where possible, cooperating with parties who also want to participate in that installation.

Fiber optics delivers the best quality network. It is the most stable technology because it makes use of light signals rather than power signals. As a result, the signal loses barely, if any speed. Fiber optics also uses energy more efficiently.

Data growth will continue to grow enormously in the coming years, not only due to the ever more intensive internet use and the increasing number of devices, but also due to gaming, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. These developments are made possible with fiber optics.

KPN is one of the world’s greenest companies and is always on the lookout for ways of realizing its far-reaching environmental goals.