Proximus Chief Technology Officer Geert Standaert outlines the ambition: “Belgium has always been the frontrunner in deploying high speed networks, with a large vectored VDSL footprint, covering 85% at 30 Mbps and 50% at 100 Mbps. Despite this extensive fiber-to-the-cabinet network, Proximus only recently announced a 3 billion investment plan to start a massive fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-business rollout.”
This will be the biggest network transformation of the decade in Belgium. Standaert: “It’s technically challenging too, as a fiber access network is an entirely different technology than the copper wire we have been familiar with for ages. For that reason, we needed to thoroughly rethink our tools and processes.”
One of the key challenges for Proximus is to keep firm control over network quality and consistency. The design shouldn’t only allow the network to be built cost-efficiently, the network has to be maintained and run efficiently for decades to come. Hence the importance of the engineering team being able to construct a detailed plan for the field teams to deploy.
This became apparent during an FTTH pilot project in Brussels. With principles being defined about how to deal with field particulars such as typical dwelling unit sizes, building block sizes, existing duct infrastructure and the presence of manholes and cabinets.
Once a standard was defined, the Proximus team designed and meticulously engineered the network with the use of sophisticated software. “We use Comsof Fiber”, says Proximus Domain Manager Physical Layer and FTTH Engineering Filip Corveleyn. “It allows us to define our own design rules and then automatically generates FTTH designs based on quality GIS data of streets, houses, utility networks, et cetera.”
“We helped with Proximus’ FTTH plans from the start,” says Comsof’s COO Jeroen Vanhaverbeke. “Proximus initially used Comsof Fiber Simulator and later on a customised version of Comsof Fiber Designer to allow a better fit with its design rules. We performed several detailed calculations on a national scale which allowed Proximus to evaluate different scenario’s in their business case analysis. A team of about 5 people is currently creating designs for the FTTH roll-out in Belgium. We continue to help them in this process.”
“Comsof Fiber allows us to define our own design rules. And it automatically generates FTTH designs based on quality GIS data.”
Proximus Domain Manager Physical Layer and FTTH Engineering
Iteratively improve your designs
“By adjusting the parameters, we could iteratively improve and refine our design. We were also able to enrich the GIS model with Proximus data gathered during the past and with new field input, enabling us to quickly iterate and improve the design. So, the method greatly facilitated our design and engineering process, which would otherwise have been extremely laborious.”
Reduce costs and increase planning stability
Comsof Fiber allows optimized use of different deployment methods. Corveleyn explains: “During the planning stage we decided to install fiber along façades when possible to avoid trenching, since this would significantly reduce costs and increase planning stability. The Comsof engineers showed us how to model this scenario in the software and we managed to generate the network exactly how we wanted it.”