Big Interview

Eurofiber’s expanding borders

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Eric Kuisch, COO of Eurofiber, talks to Natalie Bannerman about the company’s aggressive expansion plans in Europe and the new technologies and partnerships making it happen.

Expansion is the name of the game at Eurofiber. Eric Kuisch, its chief operating officer, says the company is moving full speed towards a period of growth after spending a year “putting in place the operational organisation” required. With that in place, the company is now focussing on its projects, collaborations and business development.

One of Eurofiber’s projects is its recently announced agreement with Nokia to accelerate the rollout of fibre in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The deal includes a multi-country rollout of dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), data centre switching, and other technologies to support the expansion of Eurofiber’s Open Network footprint.

This activity reflects the company’s evolution. The firm began in the Netherlands, which Kuisch describes as a “very dense” market “with a lot of very high-profile customers”, before expanding into Belgium. Kuisch says the company is now accelerating its growth, organically and inorganically, into France and Germany.

“The sheer size of those countries means that we’ve also looked at our whole ecosystem of vendors, installation partners and contractors, with the ambition to also expand our portfolio in the Netherlands both from a fibre optic network point of view, but also a data centre connectivity point of view,” Kuisch explains.

Searching for vendors

With this in mind, Eurofiber is looking to add vendors to its ecosystem, which is already home to some great companies. “But we’re looking for a big partner that could go along with our expansion needs,” says Kuisch, “and has the capacity to do so quickly and has a strong European presence.”

Nokia’s strength in data centre switching was a key attraction for Eurofiber says Kuisch, because the firm wants “to connect our customers to as many data centres as possible”.

But Eurofiber’s plans do not end with Nokia and its existing vendors, as it is continuing to look for opportunities in the space as the pace of innovation accelerates.

“It could be that a new business opportunity pops up that we may not be able to fill with our existing partners,” says Kuisch. “We’re always scanning the market for any new and exciting players that come in.”

Kuisch says that the company is running a number of mobile private networking pilots that use 5G technology, which means it is working with a niche players.

One such pilot from earlier this year was a quantum testbed that Eurofiber joined with QuTech and Juniper Networks to deploy. The testbed connected several data centres in the Netherlands to enable the use of quantum technologies, including quantum cryptography.

“As an infrastructure player there’s no way around quantum. It’s going to be the next level of the internet,” explains Kuisch. “We know that it requires a super-reliable underlying fibre optic network and, of course, we want to prove that our fibre optic networks can meet that challenge.”

The other way to show that is to use the technology in real-world environments rather than relying only on research, says Kuisch.

So far, the trials by Eurofiber’s Dutch testbed have only used data centres. The next step, says Kuisch, is to “add more nodes to the testbed so that we can replicate this key distribution over many, many [points of presence] in the network, and also extend the full distance on which you can apply it, for example across international connections”.

Subsea and ESG

Subsea is an interesting part of Eurofiber’s offering. Although it does not invest in subsea capacity themselves, it does provide fibre infrastructure to and from cable landing stations. Kuisch says this means the company is constantly “scanning where these new subsea developments are going, and we make sure that our national footprint in different countries where we are is nicely linked to those landing stations”.

Kuisch will appear on the ESG finance and investment panel at Capacity Europe 2022, which is being held during the first day of the conference, where he will speak about Eurofiber’s position on the subject.

The exec says that Eurofiber closed its latest round of financing, based on “very strict ESG criteria”.

“They’re intrinsically a part of all the financial decisions we’ve made,” he says. “This is a commitment.”

Kuisch says that for Eurofiber, being a responsible company means doing its part to save the planet. This extends into its Scope 3 plans with its vendors, such as Nokia, and ensuring other contracts meet the company’s plans to be carbon neutral.

Individual projects aside, Kuisch says the next 12 months will see Eurofiber focus on solidifying its presence in markets it is expanding into – France and Germany – and ensuring it has “a decent funnel that we can support our hyperscale friends with infrastructure”.