Telecom network planning is key to gigabit broadband rollout

8 December 2021 by Mike Dorland

Inventory management will be a vital tool for operators that need to adapt to complex planning and regulatory conditions to achieve the widespread gigabit broadband connectivity regulators – and customers – demand.


 

Gigabit fibre connections are seen as a key enabler for the digital economy, and telecom network planning will be essential for delivering the coverage that regulators seek to achieve.

Around the world, governments are aware of the benefits that widespread gigabit coverage can bring to consumers and businesses alike. For example, the EU Commission recently communicated to the European Parliament and other EU institutions that the region should set an objective for full gigabit coverage by 2030, through landlines, 5G and 6G.

Likewise, the UK government has pledged to provide at least 85% of the UK with gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, and has committed £5bn to help connect the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK.

"the great infrastructure challenge of the 21st Century" 

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) puts it more succinctly: “Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st Century. Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.”

Notably, the FCC also highlights the ‘infrastructure challenge’ that gigabit broadband rollout creates. Indeed, access to gigabit broadband is not a technology issue – gigabit speeds are already in reach from a technological perspective, with technology advances set to enhance speeds even further.

The real issues facing operators and regulators are planning, regulation and competition to ensure fair pricing for consumers and business customers. Of these, planning presents the biggest hurdle.

National coverage means just that, which requires extending fibre broadband connectivity beyond urban and metro areas that are, relatively speaking, easier to reach – but reaching rural areas brings its own challenges.

Operators trying to extend their fibre footprint beyond cities and towns often face complex planning regulations, difficulty finding suitable ‘paths’ for fibre, and can struggle to manage their rollout efficiently. At the same time, they must deliver at the right price, while ensuring ROI for their backers.

The need for accurate telecom network planning

To meet these challenges effectively requires accurate and consistent telecom network planning. Most operators don’t have an accurate source of data that allows them to visualise every asset in their network, which makes it extremely difficult to ensure efficient deployment.

This problem is magnified by the fact that operators are going to have to be increasingly creative in making use of a combination of assets in order to get fibre into the ground and to plot the most efficient routes for new connections, particularly as they look to extend networks into more regional and rural areas. Road networks may not be as extensive as they are in metro and suburban areas – and houses may not be as neatly arranged in symmetrical, linear patterns.

It means that alongside traditional rollout by digging trenches, operators will also need to think about overhead poles, canals, railways, and so on, which is likely to involve complex ownership issues (for using cross-country routes, for example, that may span land under the ownership of multiple different stakeholders and not under the jurisdiction of a council or local authority as such). In many cases, they will also need to consider wireless broadband options for the last-mile.

But the problem does not stop there – even when gigabit broadband is deployed and live, operators still need to understand consumption of, and demand for, services across all assets and regions in order to monetise services profitably and to assure the quality of the services they deliver. This understanding is essential for driving future investment, for tracking uptake once an area has been passed, and for defining the optimum packages to target users based on analysis of how others consume services in similar locations.

Consolidated network and asset inventory system

What’s required is a consolidated inventory system that integrates with business and operational processes to provide the data needed to link workflows, visualise telecom networks and assets, and to plan extensions.

This view must be independent of technology – agnostic to any optical transport network – while being capable of bringing all assets (logical and physical) into a single dashboard view, with a simplified, shared workspace for planning, deploying and managing fibre investments.

That’s where VC4-IMS can help. Our telecom network planning and inventory system helps operators to improve services by providing a single central system that results in a “single truth” of their network estate, enabling operators to increase revenues and expand margins, while reducing risks, OPEX and CAPEX costs.

VC4-IMS allows operators to easily search for any network object and find related information in a single click. It also provides network planners with all the tools they need to design new, or update existing, network designs before they are built in the actual network.

Features offered include physical (active and passive) and logical Inventory and asset management, along with GIS and Network Maps, Network planning, Manual and automated planning, Change management, Workflow, to name a few, enabling operators to regain full control over their network and assets.

Extensive deployment of gigabit fibre is coming, but will require multiple stakeholders to work together. It means that in such a complex regulatory and planning environment, operators will need accurate and rapid inventory visualisation and management capabilities.

Learn more how telecom inventory management with VC4-IMS brings everything together to help you easily plan and maintain your network even in a challenging regulatory environment. 

Topics: Network management, Telecom Inventory Management, Network Planning, Gigabit