The secret to planning and designing a successful network build

Trenches Law News   •   October 22nd, 2020

With the UK’s network infrastructure evolving at pace – not least as we work towards becoming a 100% gigabit-ready nation by 2025 – there has never been a more crucial time for operators to streamline their builds.

For our latest guest blog, we therefore spoke to Flomatik – a network services partner which specialises in helping operators drive transformational change within industry. Here, account director Stewart Pert explores the secret to planning and designing a successful telecommunications network roll-out.

Of course, rolling out a network infrastructure is by no means a simple task. But the exciting thing about this industry is that there are a growing number of operators – including altnets – each with a bold vision as to what the future of connectivity could look like throughout the UK.

We’ve certainly enjoyed being a part of many network builds over the past few years and take great pride in the fact that we can help providers navigate and mitigate the complexities commonly encountered.

These complexities could be likened to ‘growing pains’ perhaps – potential hurdles that can be overcome with the right expertise and resources to hand. In other words, by investing time, knowledge and effort at the planning stage – and remaining agile to readjustments as you go – you’re far better equipped to reduce the impact at build.

So, whether you have only a small knowledge gap to fill, or are coming into the market relatively fresh faced and eager to pick up as many tips as possible, here are eight key factors to consider:

  1. Decide how you will fund the network build

Investment will prove pivotal to an effective network roll-out, so it’s crucial to think about where the funding will come from – not just for the build, but onward operations management too. Whether you decide to aggregate rural gigabit vouchers or seek formal investment, the due diligence starts in this very early phase. Investors will look for an experienced team, with a good track record, and the ability to scale, so it’s crucial to choose solid partners to help consult, plan and build the network.

This is also the right time to become recognised as an Ofcom Communications Provider (CP) and seek to establish Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) with Openreach.

  1. Create a detailed technical specification

While network builds naturally need to be adaptable to reflect the pace of change within this fluid market, a detailed, approved architecture will form the important foundations of a plan.

With a technical plan also comes a sense of preparedness which helps to identify and manage potential project obstacles before they surface.

  1. Understand your planning options

While some operators have the necessary planning expertise in-house, others rely on the experience of outsourced build partners. It’s important to recognise a third option too, in that some specialist planning teams can offer a managed service. This provides operators with access to professionals who understand FttH specification, PIA regulation, design and implementation, and who also utilise a Geographical Information System (GIS), survey software and automation tools as standard, to ensure efficient network planning. With this option, compared to a fully outsourced model, the operator also retains full control over planning decisions.

  1. Prioritise build quality

Planning may often represent only a small percentage of an operator’s total roll-out cost – sometimes as little as 1% – but it can have a significant impact on the ability to build a quality gigabit FttX network.

Rich GIS and premise data obtained from the likes of Ordnance Survey helps bring clarity to planning strategies and can reduce the risk of unpredictable build costs.

Netadmin Nine – a comprehensive FttX Operational Support System (OSS) – can also help manage the network as well as sales and marketing campaigns, which means operators don’t need a CRM system in the early stages – in fact, some may never require one.

  1. Refine your strategy

Armed with reliable GIS data, operators are better equipped to ‘sense check’ their overall build strategy, including their proposed target areas for the network roll-out. Rather than making assumptions, opportunity analysis tools can help to model different scenarios that support informed decision making.

  1. Begin high-level planning

Once the strategy and proposed architecture is clear, an operator is well positioned to begin high-level planning including the network design, as well as the identification of premises requiring wayleaves and sites with Special Engineering Difficulties (SEDs). Again, this sense of preparedness will help to ensure potential build hurdles are anticipated and mitigated, with the greatest lead time possible.

  1. Progress low-level planning

With a far greater degree of experience required to conduct the level of detailed planning necessary at this stage, this is the point in the process where operators particularly benefit from the support of a trusted partner. However, waiting until this stage to appoint that partner risks jeopardising the project schedule – if not the ability to deliver the build, full stop.

The technical planning required at this stage, should cover the PIA plant required, surface type validation, civil and fibre distribution, bills of materials, premises’ status and site walk-outs.

  1. Be agile

A truly effective planning strategy will consider far more than the details outlined above – it’s about being agile and remaining abreast of build progress too.

A proficient planning partner will therefore also update ‘as-built’ records in real-time, to help the operator manage the asset, satisfy code powers and adapt, as required, long into the future. This is when your quality network can begin to generate revenue after all.

For further information about the content of this blog, or to speak to Flomatik about your upcoming network build, please visit www.flomatik.co.uk.