Enabling power-grid network to provide triple-play services
Energie AG Oberösterreichis (Energie AG) is an Austrian multi-utility company that operates principally in Upper Austria, the country’s third-largest state in terms of population. Since 1892, Energie AG has been supplying the region, as well as parts of Salzburg, Styria, and Lower Austria, with energy, natural gas, water, and waste collection services. Its customer base consists primarily of households and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) — the backbone of the European economy.
Several years ago, Energie AG decided to extend their core business reusing a power-grid-oriented network to provide more services. The company created a new infrastructure with Passive Optical Network (PON) technology to expand their portfolio with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for end users, including telephone, television, and internet services. They initially had approximately 1,000 customers.
However, when Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) became more popular, the current solution didn’t sufficiently support the growing customer base. In response, Energie AG Telekom decided to launch a full-scale FTTH project with the capacity to provide fiber connectivity for at least 50,000 households. After comprehensive security tests, they chose Huawei as ICT solution provider in digital transformation.
Objective: A new stable source of growth with triple-play services
Energie AG needed an alternate, stable source of revenue that was not dependent on the price of energy. The company’s solution was to gain 50 to 60 percent more service subscriptions from 100 thousand network-connected households.
“A few years ago, FTTH became a very popular topic in Austria,” said Manfred Litzlbauer, Managing Director of Energie AG Telekom. “Everyone was talking about this technology on both the political and industrial levels. It became obvious that if we wanted to become a major player in the Internet provider market, we would need to offer our clients an FTTH-based solution. Around that time, we came up with a business plan to connect 100 thousand households to our fiber-optic infrastructure.”
Although Energie AG Telekom’s customers were previously serviced by Ethernet PON (EPON)-based infrastructure, Gigabit-capable PON (GPON) is better suited to meet the high-bandwidth, multi-service security requirements of the networking project. Thus, the company decided to change the existing technology. The chosen supplier had to provide high-end, high-bandwidth Optical Network Terminals (ONT) that could support the latest Wi-Fi solutions and triple-play services (internet, telephone, and TV).
The plan was focused mainly on rural areas, and it had the social benefit of reducing digital exclusion, which drew the support of the Austrian government and the regional administration of Upper Austria. European authorities also showed their support by funding parts of the project with EU grants.
Objective 2: Reuse a power grid-oriented network to provide more services
Energie AG operates 6,500 kilometers of fiber optics. Until recently, their solutions were limited to two groups of customers: telecommunication companies using fiber for their transmitters and receiver stations; and businesses, mainly large companies in their production facilities.
The biggest challenge for Energie AG was finding a way to reuse its power-grid-oriented optical network, which was originally built to control power transmitters, to provide broadband Internet access, telephone, and television services to customers.
In addition to the problems that this kind of investment normally entails — gathering funds for the infrastructure preparing and building costs, selecting qualified construction companies, and cooperating with communities for site selection — Energie AG had to find a global partner whose solutions could help them build a modern network for 100 thousand potential customers.
Transformation: From energy company to ISP industry
Energie AG chose Huawei Enterprise as a comprehensive partner for the project, to act as a device supplier and technical advisor. Huawei proposed upgrading the technology solution from EPON to GPON. While GPON is more expensive and time-consuming to implement than EPON, it is also more secure, offers higher upstream speeds, and is better suited to voice-data-video services.
Huawei delivered all the necessary solutions, from access stations to end-user infrastructure, such as ONTs that were delivered to customers’ households. Huawei is the only manufacturer on the market with a complete end-to-end product portfolio.
“First of all, we looked at security,” Litzlbauer said. “Before we decided to supply equipment to customers, a third-party company had to be involved in the project to perform detailed analysis of Huawei’s equipment. All products were disassembled, the CPUs and storage were taken out, and their code was read and manipulated, then put back in. We then checked how the system worked to find potential leaks in its security systems. All the tests were passed by Huawei’s devices, and we could move on with the project.”
Tens of thousands of new customers
“Thanks to adding the Huawei’s hardware to already existing power-grid-oriented network, we have been able to offer completely new services for our customers together with core energy services. We can provide fiber optic internet access, telephone, and television services for up to 100 thousand homes, which we think will increase the number of our broadband digital customers to nearly 60 thousand households,” says Manfred Litzlbauer.
The use of GPON technology allows Energie AG to offer 100 Mbit/s Internet connection speeds in a tiny package. The high-end ONT that Energie AG uses at customers’ homes supports smart Wi-Fi solutions and simplifies the home wireless network setup, even when customers use external access points to enhance coverage.
Energie AG together with Huawei have created a system that is fully automated and integrated within the business system of the company. “First, customers order our services online, then receive a package with the set-top box from us. As they unpack it and plug it in, everything is being activated automatically. The Internet, TV, and telephone lines are ready to be used almost instantly. It doesn’t get simpler than that,” concludes Litzlbauer.
About Energie AG
Energie AG Oberösterreich is a modern, efficient energy and service company. Since 1892, Energie AG has been supplying energy to Upper Austria, as well as parts of Salzburg, Styria, and Lower Austria.