The answer to this question seems so obvious at first glance. There are constant changes going on in a telco network, so there’s clearly a need to implement those changes via corresponding planning and design activities. But what might not be so obvious is the importance of those network design and planning decisions on the efficiency and effectiveness of the network. This blog highlights the many ways in which these effects play out in the short term and the longer term.

Let’s start by using an example. Network augmentation is a common occurrence that comes in various forms including greenfield and brownfield scenarios. A brownfield scenario is to service in-fill housing growth (eg when a large block with a house is sub-divided to now contain three houses). But we’ll take a closer look at the greenfield example of a large new estate that services 300 new blocks / homes.

These 300 homes all need to be connected with telecom services and related infrastructure. The infrastructure includes:

  • New Containment (ducts, sub-ducts, handholes, poles, lead-in catenary wires, etc)
  • New Physical Connectivity (cables, splices / connectors, etc)
  • Connectivity to Existing Infrastructure (connecting the new infrastructure to the existing network as well as the required logical / virtual networking that needs to occur)

Expert network designers have been creating these types of augmentation projects for years using manual techniques. Based on that experience, designers have become adept at identifying where they should put infrastructure to serve the 300 homes in our example.

A key design decision is to choose between the available access methods, which include FTTH, FTTN, FTTC, HFC, etc.  For our scenario, let’s choose fibre to the home (FTTH). The designers have a range of different design rules that have been assigned to help guide their decisions. In this case, we know that the maximum number of homes that can be serviced by a FDH (Fibre Distribution Hub) is 192, but provisions must be made for 30% future capacity (ie for in-fill or further augmentations). That means our designer’s target is 135 homes per FDH, give or take a few. That suggests we need at least three FDHs to service this area.

Seems logical, but there are still other factors to consider, such as the spacing of homes. There can be remote clusters within the new housing estate that are separated from others, or perhaps there’s a stream or other geographical / topographical features that prevent a “cookie-cutter” design. Design rules help to guide the planners on the ideal network fan-out, but they’re a guide.

The designer also has flexibility around where they put key nodal objects (eg manholes / handholes, splitters, FDH, splice cases, etc). Do they put a manhole on the east or west side of the road? Do they put an access point outside house number 3 or 7 along the street? Does that access point only service homes on the same side of the street or are there street crossings?

Are you starting to get a sense that there are many, many possible variants in how a designer might plan this new infrastructure build? Due to the manual effort required for a designer to lay out the infrastructure, step by step for all 300 homes, designers might only evaluate one or a small number of designs for this estate.

However, designers now have more advanced tools in their design arsenal, tools like the Network Planning Algorithms in SunVizion’s Network Planning tool. These tools don’t just look at a handful of designs to serve an estate, they automatically consider thousands of network layouts and assist the designer to choose from the few most optimal designs. It’s not uncommon for the algorithms to identify the design variant that is 20% more optimal than those prepared manually by even the best designers.

Now 20% might not sound like much, but let’s take a closer look at the implications for our 300 home estate:

  1. The algorithm is able to find a variant that only needs 3 FDHs instead of the 4 needed in the designer’s layout
  2. The algorithm creates a design that uses 8km of directional boring (of underground duct) compared with 10km used by the designer
  3. That reduction in duct could lead to a reduction in the number of pits to be installed by 10-20
  4. The algorithm uses 12km of cable compared with 14km by the designer

* note that all these numbers are indicative for this hypothetical scenario.

Not only does this all equate to a CAPEX reduction approaching a million dollars, but it also means there’s 20% less infrastructure to manage, maintain and repair into the future. This leads to OPEX savings on an ongoing basis, as does the lowered annual vendor support fees (eg 3 FDHs instead of 4). Having 20% less infrastructure to build also implies a speed-up of implementation times.

We should also note that the benefits of algorithmic design doesn’t stop with the physical plant build.

Automation can speed up the design process significantly, which impacts as design cost savings, but also in faster RFS (Ready for Service) times for customers. Beyond the physical infrastructure, the SunVizion algorithms also incorporate the following into the designs:

  • Connectivity (cross- connections such as splices that link network resources like the physical connections discussed above)
  • Coordination of planning resources and workforces – the network planning and design teams invariably have multiple projects underway simultaneously, often with overlapping dependencies on resources and workforces. This functionality assists planners to develop designs, Bills of Material (BOM) and coordination of resources in a more automated and efficient way

SunVizion’s algorithms help optimise the use of your valuable resources, including time (planning and implementation time), materials (eg cable length) and overall cost to deliver a project or customer service.

Contact SunVizion and let us show you how our Network Design and Planning tools can help give your organisation a significant competitive advantage.