Telecom service providers in Europe are under increasing pressure from regulatory bodies to employ advanced technologies for providing ultrafast Internet speed to their customers. Full-fiber broadband is considered to be a much faster and approximately five times more reliable alternative to the currently used wired broadband solutions. Records, however, show that in the UK, only 3% of homes and offices use fiber-based broadband networks as against 97% in Japan¹. The challenge of slow networks is more acute in rural and underdeveloped areas. Despite paying the same tariffs as their urban counterparts, customers in these regions do not necessarily enjoy broadband networks at benchmarked speeds.
To overcome this deficiency, Ofcom has announced significant measures to increase investment in broadband fiber and telecom companies have committed to cover up to 6 million premises with full fiber by 2020.
Challenges in Adapting to Next-Generation Networks?
Deploying Fiber-To-The-x technology efficiently is essential for the cost-effective provision of high-speed broadband to end customers. Telecom companies must plan out a cohesive FTTx roll-out strategy and scale resources for effective network design, deployment, and operations.
The general issues faced in upgrading the broadband networks to a new level of technology include:
- Increase in CAPEX and OPEX
The conventional way to connect a home for the service involved the use of copper cables. While copper-based phone cables are efficient for voice signals that they are were originally intended for, they have very limited bandwidth. Today homes and offices with fixed-line telephone services also need a broadband connection and fiber transmits data much faster than copper cables.
Replacing the decades-old legacy copper network inventory systems with FTTx infrastructure will involve comprehensive network planning and infrastructural works.
- Preparing in-house teams for the task
The telecom service teams that have worked with copper cables need to be trained for network planning, engineering, and system management on fiber optics. Once the costing and design are approved by the network planning department, the field engineer must begin with the construction of a physical network to convert work-orders into as-built forms.
A comprehensive training in this regard will involve an understanding of fiber optic infrastructure transmission, construction, installation, maintenance, termination, inspection, and testing.
- Compliance with regulatory requirements
The UK government has already stated that homes have a legal right to the broadband speed of at least 10 MBPS by 2020. Increasing the broadband efficiency is no longer a voluntary service but a mandate for telecom companies across the UK to abide to.
To comply with these guidelines and timescales, work must start immediately especially since companies need to obtain civil and municipal permissions for laying down the new network infrastructure.
Implementing Scalable FTTx Networks: A Unified Approach
It is possible to overcome these hurdles and deploy fiber optic networks successfully while also controlling the costs. The right methods for this will involve:
- Leveraging the best of existing infrastructure: By building a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network, telecoms can make the most of existing infrastructure to improve broadband speeds without the complexities and high costs of full-fledged FTTx build. They can also decommission legacy inventory systems and move the data from different sources to a consolidated target set up. With a business and service-centric approach to inventory management, telecom companies can leverage a balanced mix of technology and active infrastructure.
- Installing future-ready networks to fulfill anticipated demand for more gigabytes and speed: Stopping at 10 MBPS, for now, is not the right strategy. Companies must plan to devise networks for even better upstream speeds and symmetrical full-duplex DOCSIS 3.1 Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) services to make way for IPv6 data products, seamless bi-directional teleconferencing, and interactive multiple video devices at home that allow them to expand up to 10 GBPS
- Building first-time-right solutions: With the support of an experienced telecom engineering partner, telecoms can build a digital fiber architecture that is integrated with the network and reduces the number of network elements to create a dedicated full-duplex, symmetrical spectrum for each user. They can also plan to build future cable networks incorporating competing technologies of xPON (Passive Optical Networking). This will reduce maintenance works and node split re-design challenges while improving user experience with high quality of service (QoS).
It is Worth Collaborating with the Experts
A multi-disciplinary network engineering framework is vital for timely and cost-optimized deployment of fibre-based broadband. From robust network planning and comprehensive cost analysis to complete system design and field implementation, an end-to-end engineering partner can help to minimize CAPEX and OPEX while also accelerating time-to-market and improving the quality of final services.
With targets and deadlines already defined by Ofcom and other regulatory bodies across Europe, the telecom service providers now need to involve experienced network-design and system engineering consultants to roll out the FTTx-based, next-generation networks.