5 ways to fast-track rural FTTx deployments

Blog by Exfo.

Fiber-optic deployments are on a roll across the globe. A lot of countries are driving the rollout of fiber-optic highways to provide rural and remote areas with high-speed broadband access. Given the speed of the transmissions involved and how critical connectivity is in today’s context (think of teleworking, autonomous vehicles, remote health care, AI or IoT), ensuring optimal performance and reliability from the get-go is key. Furthermore, being efficient in doing so, yields considerable competitive advantage.

This blogpost explores a set of angles that, taken together, make up a holistic approach in ensuring reliable, optimal and efficient optical networks, from build to activation. Let’s jump in!

1. Streamlining fiber tests and connector inspection with automation to ensure compliance with network design requirements

When it comes to fiber testing and characterization, the OTDR is the ultimate tool. However, traditional OTDR approaches require a certain level of expertise and include manual processes that may introduce interpretation discrepancies and human errors. With the advent of intelligent optical mapping (iOLM), innovative OTDRs can accurately test different types of topologies, including unbalanced splitters, while providing an icon-based mapping of all the elements/events on the link. Automated reporting with clear icon-based link view helps the correlation of test results with the designed network topology.

The leading cause of network failures is not a secret1—dirty or damaged connector endfaces have a tremendous impact on signal quality, even in trace amounts. There is no way around inspection; the importance of this best practice cannot be stressed enough in keeping rework and operational expenses in check. The good news is that automated inspection tools have greatly simplified the process. Leading inspection scopes now offer capabilities like auto-centering, auto-focus, auto-capture and auto-analysis.  Clear pass/fail diagnostics as per relevant industry standards can be obtained within seconds, at the touch of a button. It is also now possible to have automated test parameters adjustments as per the type of connectors under test thanks to the smart tips on the latest inspection scopes.

2. Embracing versatile tools in the kit

The right tool for the right application makes a huge difference in efficiently closing field jobs within budget. One such example is the introduction of the optical fiber multimeter to provide FTTx field crews with a simple, essential tool that can meet the actual needs in the field through its versatility. Whether validating power levels or identifying connectivity issues, the optical fiber multimeter empowers technicians to troubleshoot issues onsite when needed to ensure they can connect the subscriber without having to escalate for support. Versatile testers are essential in any toolkit to drive down operational expenses and delays by empowering technicians to find and fix potential issues before any subscriber is impacted.

3. Ensuring compliance across teams through connectivity

How can network service providers make sure that their methods of procedures (MoP) are being implemented in the field by various teams, whether internal crews or contractors? The answer is in the cloud. By connecting test instruments to centralized platforms with cloud-hosted capabilities, compliance can be easily monitored and enforced. Connectivity also takes out the hassle in manual reporting through automated results upload. In addition to real-time job tracking, the data gathered provides actionable insights driving toward informed business decision-making (e.g., when choosing contractors or suppliers of network components), feeding a positive loop of operational efficiencies.

4. Accelerating FTTx from design to build and beyond

When it comes to last-mile builds, centralized fiber testing offers a new approach to network quality assurance that streamlines field dispatches. A central optical test head, coupled with a mobile app and a reflector, enable seamless end-to-end validation. With this solution, automated and error-free test sequences can be triggered at any time, allowing for permanent oversight of construction process and quality. By identifying issues early on, this proactive approach ensures everything is in order, especially while technicians are still onsite. Centralized testing provides cumulative benefits from inventory validation through early issue identification to lifecycle monitoring. In the scope of funded programs, this approach also has the advantage of delivering true deployment transparency and accountability in terms of claimed fiber circuits, accurate counts for homes passed and precise location data.

5. Upskilling and empowering field crews

However intuitive and intelligent, test tools are only part of the solution to fast-track deployments, because without boots on the ground nothing can be achieved. In the US only, projections indicate that between 150,000 and 205,000 telecom jobs2 will be created. This substantial demand in workforce underscores the importance of equipping individuals with not only tools, but the necessary training and expertise to thrive in an expanding and evolving sector.