CommScope discusses how critical tools can support AltNets plan and develop networks more efficiently, to deliver faster time-to-market.
As the world’s fifth-largest economy, Britain ranks 35th out of the 37 OECD countries for the proportion of fibre in its total fixed broadband infrastructure. The nation’s key incumbent providers have worked closely with the government to try and close the gap. Still, these investments may not be enough to make the required impact as Britain’s high number of low-density, rural communities makes running fibre to the premise extremely time-consuming and expensive.
Not only the financial aspect alone did hold back the country’s fibre infrastructure, but also the support for innovation was not enough. Recently, this has started to change, as a growing number of independent alternative networks (AltNets) step up to address the problem. With some creative support from industry partners like CommScope, the independent network providers are helping the UK catch up with the rest of Europe.
THE RISE OF THE ALTNET
2019 saw tremendous growth, not only in the number of AltNet projects, but in the number of fibre-connected homes across Britain, a trend that’s expected to continue over the next five years. According the Independent Network Cooperatives Association (INCA) 2.4 million additional premises will be passed by the end of 2020 and 15.7 million premises by the end of 2025.
Despite delivering impressive results, AltNets face considerable headwinds.
New topologies, the impact of 5G and the need for increased capacity create more decisions to be considered during network planning, increasing the time and cost of deploying new services. To help AltNets address these challenges, CommScope developed the FTTH ePlanner. The ePlanner is a UK-specific planning tool that guides network designers through the various steps and decisions in the network planning process.
The ePlanner helps engineers quickly identify the best network design topology for any project. Engineers provide input regarding demography type and density, take-up rate business case and any infrastructure constraints. The tool then walks the engineer through the various network design aspects that need to be considered and explains the available options and the pros and cons of each.
At the end of the process, the ePlanner provides the recommended topology, optimized cluster size, physical deployment options, and actives utilization for the best-case scenario. The user is also able to generate a detailed bill of materials BOM to be used in estimation.
The completely virtual ePlanner also considers key regulatory and standards based requirements that may affect the design. The goal is to help understaffed AltNets reduce the amount of time and cost involved in developing and deploying their fibre networks.
NETWORK PLANNING MOVES CENTRE STAGE
As the fibre roll-out across Britain continues, expect planning tools like the ePlanner to become increasingly important. Evolving business models, like open access networks, emphasize the need to reduce time-to-market and development cost. In an open access approach multiple service providers lease wholesale services from the network infrastructure owner. The faster the network can turn up services, the better for everyone. Open access networks are just one of many business use-cases for quality network planning tools.
While there is still a long way to go before the UK reaches its goal of full fibre coverage, there is cause for optimism. The recent strides made by AltNets, coupled with the strength of the incumbents, appear to be moving the country in the right direction.