5 key takeaways on fiber network convergence

Comsof hosted a round table on fiber network convergence at Gigabit Access last week. More than 20 participants representing operators and equipment manufacturers shared their knowledge and experience on the topic. We have listed the 5 key takeaways from the discussion below.

1.Cost savings of only building once

Fiber has a lot of benefits such as higher bandwidth and lower latency. And it is also a lot cheaper to build and maintain compared to copper and coax networks. Most of the greenfield telecommunication networks being built today are fiber networks. Operators around the world are deploying FTTH, FTTB and FTTA networks.

The deployment of a fiber network is still expensive, considering all the civil works and labour to do the trenching, lay the ducts, blow the cables, splice the fibers, etc. However, everybody agrees on the benefits of fiber network convergence. The cost savings that you can achieved by building a single fiber infrastructure are significant.

We also presented a case study at the conference that highlight these savings as well

2.Uncertainties around 5G needs

Fiber will be a key part of the upcoming 5G mobile networks for both fronthaul and backhaul. But there are still a lot of uncertainties: What will be the capacity for each mobile site? How dense will the network be? Where will the antenna sites be located?

During the round table, one of our guests mentioned that he expects each antenna site to need a 100Gb connection. This would require a huge fiber footprint and investment considering the current capabilities of fiber technologies. The density of a 5G network depends on the density of the city and can vary between 20 to 200 small cells per square km. Most operators are not deploying 5G networks on a large scale yet, so the actual antenna locations still need to be determined.

3.Spare capacity is golden

These uncertainties on the future needs indicate how valuable spare fiber capacity is.

Civil works are the biggest cost of a network deployment. Leaving free space in ducts or deploying larger cables will only have a slight impact of a couple of percent on the total cost of the network.

One operator at the table shared his experience from their Fibre-to-the-Business deployments. They had deployed an FTTH network with enough spare capacity and were now able to leverage the available fibers to connect enterprises at a lower cost.

You can apply a similar approach for future FTTA deployments. If you first deploy FTTH and FTTB networks with enough spare capacity or available duct space, you can easily connect the antennas once you have decided on their locations.

4.Strategy first, convergence second

The company strategy and the market situation are two main drivers of the fiber rollout priorities. Do you focus on residential first or business first? Where do your competitors stand? Is the current infrastructure still sufficient? Or does it need an upgrade?

One strategy might be to increase the FTTH footprint. An operator at the table explained that their strategy was to first look for businesses and antennas in the close vicinity of the planned network. A second step was to build a design with a converged network for all endpoints.

However, fiber network convergence might not always be possible. In case of business parks or residential suburbs, for example.

Once the target areas are determined you should check how you can deploy a converged network. But the strategy of the company comes first.

5.Change IT and organisation

A fiber converged network creates complexities, both for the planning and management of the network.
This is an IT backend challenge that needs to be overcome, explained one of the round table guestst. To handle the complexities of converged network planning, automated tools such as Comsof Fiber can be used.

It is equally important to look at the internal organisation. Silos will need to be broken down. Mobile and fixed departments will require a shared budget and resources. It is clear that this needs to be a top-down decision.

Conclusion

The round table was interesting and confirmed that the cost-saving benefits of fiber network convergence are obvious, but it requires a top-down decision as changes throughout the organisation are needed. We are sure that more and more operators will make the decision to deploy converged fiber networks in the future.