Skylane Optics, Walcourt

Launching a company that revolutionizes the internet in a village in the Charleroi Metropolis sounds like a joke? Skylane Optics proves it’s possible, and the adventure is far from over.

A garage as an office and a genius idea

Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon… many legendary American success stories started in garages. But launching a revolutionary product in a garage in Thy-le-Château, a village in the Walcourt area, is even less common. Yet, Philippe Bolle did just that, at his home. Twenty years ago, he decided to design transceivers, a kind of internet transmitter-receiver, which he now exports worldwide.

Why should we care about this transceiver? Simply put, it’s partly thanks to this small device, no bigger than a USB key, that we can watch streaming movies online in excellent quality. The transceiver converts the light signal from fiber optics into an electrical signal, enabling high-speed internet to be transmitted from the server directly to your home.

A high-tech stockpile in a remote farmhouse

Little by little, Philippe Bolle’s company grew. Skylane Optics now has 35 employees (most between 30 and 40 years old) and a turnover of 13 million euros. A nature lover, this business leader set up his offices in Fraire, right next to his hometown, in a farmhouse at the end of a cul-de-sac. “Some mornings, I ride my horse to the office, 8 km through the woods from my home,” he explains. This bucolic location is ideal for countryside enthusiasts, though it can be challenging to recruit skilled staff: “The difficult access puts some people off, but not everyone: our lab manager commutes daily from Ghent, for example.”

Here you will find one of the most advanced laboratories in Europe, ensuring the quality of the device. The transceiver is tested and analyzed, both in hardware (its resistance to heat up to 70 degrees Celsius, for instance) and in software (its programming and internal code).

30% of Sweden’s telecoms connected by a Belgian company

The keys to this project’s success? A quality product in a niche market. Skylane Optics focuses on telecom operators who need high-quality transceivers. Ensuring the connection works and integrates with the entire network is vital: imagine your frustration if your connection failed while you were engrossed in an excellent online series… This is why having a part that guarantees the connection’s functionality and integration with the network is crucial.

Another characteristic of these operators: they invest in a quality high-speed network. In Sweden, known for its high-quality connection, 30% of operators use Belgian transceivers.

Moreover, the market is expanding, which is another guarantee of success. With connected devices, VR (Virtual Reality), smartphones, etc., the demand for high-speed internet increases daily.

A place in the market despite global competition

Despite the potential of this niche market, international competition is a significant concern. “Between the Rolls-Royce of transmitters developed by large companies and low-cost Chinese production, telecom operators choose the middle ground: Skylane Optics. They turn to us for our value for money, usually after several unsatisfactory experiences,” explains this business leader.

And this strategy works. Skylane Optics grows every year, mainly abroad. 99% of its productions are exported to Europe, Asia, and America. A success that is not about to stop: Philippe Bolle has just acquired an office in Miami. This transatlantic branch will allow the company to reach the American market.

Success and pride of a high-tech start-up in the heart of Charleroi Metropolis

In shorts and a t-shirt, Philippe Bolle reflects on his journey: “Products made in Wallonia, with a competent and united team, in a constantly evolving field, that’s my pride.” Two years ago, Philippe’s son, Quentin Bolle, joined the company. Another reason to maintain the company’s family spirit.

Here, in the morning, they handle parts worth 12,000 euros, and at noon, they play ping-pong and eat fries in the neighboring village. The job includes princely missions in Brazil or Asia, meetings in Sweden, and team building in Fraire, in the farmhouse courtyard, with lanterns and background music, all surrounded by family and friends.

Working in Wallonia, in a constantly evolving high-tech field, is very rewarding.

Source: Charleroi Metropole

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