& cplSiteName &

Test Analytics to Future-Proof Fiber Network Rollout

James Crawshaw
11/8/2017
50%
50%

Whether it's BT promising to extend all-fiber networks to around 2 million UK premises by 2020, NOS building out FTTH to 2.6 million premises in Portugal, or Vodafone investing €2 billion (US$2.3 billion) in German fiber, the proverbial "insatiable demand for bandwidth" is driving service providers worldwide to extend the coverage of their optical networks (FTTx, FTTA, FTTP, Remote PHY etc.) and increase their speeds. This isn't just a European phenomenon of course. In the US, AT&T, CenturyLink and several Tier 2 operators have recently announced an expansion of their FTTH footprints and Verizon has resumed its FTTH construction. And in Australia, wholesale operator National Broadband Network continues with its politically charged deployments of FTTN, HFC and FTTH.

To make sure these new network buildouts go smoothly, operators create highly detailed methods and procedures (M&P) documents which specify how to test their physical layer assets as they roll out new fiber links. Tests are required to prevent common connector issues (e.g. dirty, scratched or damaged fiber endfaces), fiber issues (e.g. macrobends, bad splicing/splittering, excessive optical return loss), or Small Form-factor Pluggable issues (e.g. faulty or wrong SFP type). However, given that network construction is usually outsourced to contractors, it can be challenging for network owners to keep track of the deployment of new outside plant and its conformance with their specifications.

While contractors say their technicians complete jobs effectively and accurately, it is hard for network owners to be certain that all tests were performed in accordance with the M&Ps. Although contractors submit reams of test-result documents to prove that they have correctly tested the fiber installation (and hence get paid), most closeout packages (design layouts, photos and test results in tables or PDF format) are not reviewed in their entirety by network operators. Given the large quantity of unstructured information, network operators are often only able to spot check for compliance and quality.

The analysis of these spot checks is usually spreadsheet-based, with project managers wasting a lot of time trying to understand why deployments are delayed. This calls for a more automated process for collecting and analyzing test results. The results could then be shared between the network operator and its contractors to better manage the compliance, design quality, contractor efficiency and progress of fiber deployments.

The GIGO principle applies, of course, so ideally the network owner should insist that all contractors use the same reporting tool for consistency. This will make it easier to see which contractors are performing well so that they can be allocated a greater share of future contracts.

Test-based data analytics should also provide metrics at a technician level such as jobs completed per selected period (days, weeks, months), jobs completed right first time, and the average number of repeated tests per test point. This can allow the contractor to better measure their own workforce performance and identify any gaps or training needs. It also enables the management team to identify key trends, such as the most common source of turn-up failure, and the most time-consuming and repetitive tasks.

Although we are still in the early innings of fiber rollouts globally, fiber-savvy technicians are in short supply and they aren't getting any younger. While new recruits can be trained, ideally we want to put a test tool in their hands that simplifies test procedures and fast-track reporting. Automated test procedures (delivered digitally, direct to the tool or smart device) not only make the field technician's life easier, but also makes him also more efficient while collecting higher-quality data.

Thorough testing during construction is key to avoiding costly deployment delays and future service outages. Post-test analytics provide a feedback loop to the network roll-out managers and contractors to enable them to improve their efficiency and the quality of their work. It is important that these results are delivered to the network owner rapidly to ensure problems can be fixed before a contractor has left site.

The network owner should also be able to see aggregate results for a geographic region, a specific contractor, or a particular equipment vendor or model. Without this granularity, problems with a particular contractor or equipment type might go unnoticed for months, leading to expensive remedial work or even service outages. Network operators need to ensure the fiber they lay today will deliver the bandwidth demands of the future. In residential broadband, operators are moving from GigE to 10GE speeds while in datacenter interconnect speeds of 100 Gbit/s are being targeted. Getting first-time-right fiber deployment will ensure these network investments are future proof.

This blog is sponsored by EXFO.

— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
The shift to application and network virtualization by operators and CSPs requires a new generation of multicore processors that are being introduced by many vendors.
In the wake of a damaging cyber attack in 2015, Philip Clayson was tasked with creating a cyber breach remediation plan for over 600 applications across TalkTalk's consumer and enterprise divisions and to deal with the operator's 'tech debt.'
It's still hard to say whether carrier SDN is really a success or a failure, but the needle is moving on SDN commercialization – albeit not as quickly as some might hope.
The most recent Thought Leadership Council (TLC) survey finds that although most communications service providers (CSPs) prefer to have a solid plan in place before moving on a new market trend, it's not looking to be the same for automation, as most CSPs surveyed say they are moving forward without solid plans.
Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is the primary focus for cable in 2018, with fierce competition across the market.
Featured Video
From The Founder
The world of virtualization is struggling to wrench itself away from the claws of vendor lock-in, which runs counter to everything that NFV stands for.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
21st Century Networking? Welcome to the Lock-In
Steve Saunders, Founder, Light Reading, 2/20/2018
How Long Before We Hit Peak MWC?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 2/23/2018
Stakes Run High for Tivo in Comcast Suit
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/20/2018
Liberty Global: Not So Fast on D3.1
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 2/20/2018
AT&T Reveals Initial 5G Cities
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/21/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed