Light blue taper ...

A blast in a fireworks factory that flattened nearly an entire city centre and destroyed 2000 homes nearly three years ago literally left a hole in the heart of Enschede, a small town in eastern Holland famous as the home of Grolsch beer.

A blast in a fireworks factory that flattened nearly an entire city centre and destroyed 2000 homes nearly three years ago literally left a hole in the heart of Enschede, a small town in eastern Holland famous as the home of Grolsch beer.

While the brewery was quickly rebuilt, the homes have taken longer to replace. In Holland around half of all homes are rented and the housing companies that were called upon to rebuild Enschede wanted to future-proof their investment. Twenty-five thousand brand new homes are being built over the next five years and all will have fibre to the home (FttH) courtesy of a three-person operation called CasaNET.

There's a phrase you're going to hear a lot more of over the next few years whenever the term broadband is mentioned: the triple play.

Basically it relies on vendors, network operators and service providers realising that customers aren't flocking to pay a fortune for fast internet access alone. CasaNET is offering the basic triple-play package of broadband internet access, pay TV and voice.

I have been mocked in the past for saying voice is one of broadband's saviours but it seems these guys are proving me right. CasaNET technology boss Peter Kamphuis says enticing customers takes an offer of all three services at the very least.

"We offer a basic triple-play package of voice, pay TV and broadband internet service. We have relationships with many content providers including free-to-air broadcasters and pay-TV channels." Tellingly, Kamphuis says internet access is the least compelling of the three services to most householders.

"TV is very important to them. Voice is quite important and internet is the least important of the three. Some customers take only TV and voice, others take all three but it's important to offer all three as a bundle."

CasaNET has strategic arrangements with a number of companies, including network provider Ericsson, allowing service provider partners access to the network.CasaNET controls the network and the service providers manage the relationship with the customer and are able to compete on a level playing field, says Kamphuis.

Outsourcing everything means the company keeps its overheads to a minimum and can compete with the incumbent player quite easily. Voice services -- local and toll calls -- are offered at around one third less than the incumbent's pricing. Without voice or TV the business case wouldn't be viable. Even before the network is finished, and before any marketing or advertising, Kamphuis says CasaNET has a 45% take up rate among new residents.

Kamphuis says the initial offering costs E59.95 and delivers 35 TV channels, 16 radio stations, local national and international calls at roughly 35% less than the former state monopoly and a symmetrical 2Mbit/s internet service with a traffic limit -- if you can call it that -- of 100GB a month.

"Next year that would likely be doubled to 4Mbit/s. Then we would expect to be offering 10Mbit/s for the same price the year after that." Current customers can already buy a 10Mbit/s service for an additional E30 a month.

"The company is run as a utility rather than a telecommunications company. That means we have a longer term view of the world and our shareholders don't expect to make a huge return on their investment in the next two to three years."

Unfortunately for those hoping to see such a venture in New Zealand, one of the biggest enablers of an FttH service is population density. CasaNET needs to be able to reach its customers en masse without spending a lot on fibre and unfortunately in New Zealand that's just not possible for the most part.

Brislen is Computerworld Online'sreporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters. Brislen travelled to Holland courtesty of Ericsson.

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