GO’s TrueFibre Project, A Driver for A Digital Malta

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GO’s nationwide TrueFibre rollout, an investment of over €100 million, started way back in 2012 and to date, over 50% of Maltese families and businesses are already enjoying the benefits of ultra-fast broadband speeds. This project has helped us identify new ways of building this infrastructure even faster and we are now testing next generational optical technologies, which will deliver speeds unimaginable today.” says AYRTON CARUANA, GO’s Chief Service Operations Officer.

How long have you been at GO and what is your role?

I joined GO in 2008 during GO’s massive transition from a parastatal organization to a private entity operating in a liberalized market, because I wanted to be part of a company that was ambitious, innovative, and futuristic. Having recently been appointed Chief Operations Officer, I am privileged to witness first-hand, part of Malta’s technological and infrastructural history. Beyond the technology and the infrastructure, our mission is to see that our customers truly experience the very best of what GO has to offer and for us to be a pillar for a Digital Malta.

What motivates you at GO?

Our motivation stems from the fact that every day, we help people and businesses connect to who and what matters most to them. Today, we depend on communications technology and to be part of this reality, is something very special. It is also a very special time to be part of GO, a company that was the first to link Malta to the rest of the world through its first submarine cable in 1995, who brought internet to the nation,  the first that brought mobile technology closer to the community and the first to provide access to pay TV and premium channels at an affordable cost. And today, GO is the only company that is rolling out TrueFibre technology, straight to everyone’s home and business. Being part of this, is hugely motivating.

When did GO’s true fibre project kick off and what is the current status?

Nationwide rollout started in 2012, built on top of a Fibre backhaul infrastructure that GO had invested in over multiple years. So far, we have covered more than 50% of Malta and Gozo with True Fibre and the ambition is to increase the rollout speed over the next 3 to 4 years so that we reach as many households as possible in the shortest time possible. We have recently piloted a new method of laying the fibre network, which is proving faster and more efficient, with less environmental impact.

How many localities have been covered and which localities are next in line?

To date we have rolled out TrueFibre in Sliema, Ta’ Xbiex, Gżira, Mtarfa, Mdina, Santa Luċija, Birkirkara, Pieta’, Lija, Santa Venera, Imrieħel, Msida, San Gwann, Saint Julians, Swieqi, Kappara, Manikata, Madliena, Qawra, Xemxija and Burmarrad, and are close to completing Naxxar. In Gozo we have covered Żebbug, Xewkija, Għarb, Għasri, Qala, Kerċem, Santa Luċija, San Lawrenz and Sannat.

We now have a number of localities towards the central and northern parts of the island that are earmarked for completion this year, whilst other localities, some also toward the southern region, are in an advanced stage.

Can you realistically tell by when will this project be completed?

GO’s network will continue to evolve overtime as new built-up areas will emerge and new developments take place, so essentially, this is one project that is never quite complete. Nonetheless, our ambition is to have nationwide TrueFibre coverage by 2025. We are already testing next generation optical network technologies which will take fibre connection to speeds which we can only dream of today, all at the same time as rolling out True Fibre to the rest of the nation.

Why is this project necessary? What do people really need to understand about this fibre network? How will it improve their lives?

I think the past year has proved how critical communications technology is for everyone. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on reliable, robust, and fast connectivity. In fact, today, broadband connectivity is as critical as electricity and when broadband services are down, the impact on everyone is simply huge. We are also thinking of the future and as the demand for connectivity increases and application and devices become more data hungry, the more critical the broadband connection becomes. Having a True Fibre network also means that businesses can transcend all geographical boundaries by taking their operations online, at any time; that no transaction or opportunity is lost, efficiency improved and operations more agile. We are doing this because it is our commitment to drive a digital Malta where no one is left behind. With TrueFibre, the possibilities are endless.

What is the total investment being incurred by GO for Malta to have this network?

All in all, GO would have invested over €100 million in Malta’s digital infrastructure, making it one of Malta’s largest investors in the countries’ current and future needs. This project is also on track to put Malta at the head of the leader board amongst its European peers as we are set to be the first country to have a nationwide Fibre-to-the-Home network available to both residential and business customers.

What are the main factors that mostly make this project challenging?

The complexity of a project of this nature, and the many elements that come into play will naturally present a multitude of challenges. These challenges range from infrastructural, to cost vs viability challenges, to those logistical, administrative, and also environmental. The list is endless, and each locality presents its own challenges. And given the specialised skills required to work on a project like this, sourcing skilled professional people is also another tough challenge. This, however, also became an opportunity to develop a more diverse workplace.

Which localities have been the most challenging and why?

Each locality has its own challenges in fact, dense urban areas such as Sliema and Gżira have proven to be very difficult to work in given the limited ability to close roads to work safely, as well as the ongoing construction in the area. On the other-hand, old village cores prove difficult due to narrow roads and lack of available infrastructure. Ironically, the easiest areas were localities like Mdina and Mtarfa, which have an underground infrastructure spanning across the streets and a pre-established entry to each building. We understand that our works can sometimes be disrupting to the residents, especially when combined with other constructions works but the long-term gain of this project will translate into the robust connectivity that only TrueFibre can offer.

 Residents come with most complaints. How do you address them?

We understand the inconvenience, however we take on all the feedback we get to seek new ways of how to reduce civil works interventions and how to better blend the network so that it is not considered as an eyesore. But notwithstanding the occasional complaints, most people have now started to appreciate this investment and its benefits. They understand GO’s commitment and our important role in driving the local digital agenda and the importance of future proofing our households for tomorrow’s digital needs.

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