Partnering for the full package

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In the second part of our series on the FTTH ‘chain’, Keely Portway considers challenges during the installation stage of works, and available solutions

The importance of reliable connectivity has never been more recognised than it is now. While ambitious targets have been in place across the world for fibre deployment for some time, the ongoing pandemic has served to push it to the forefront.  

Yet, there is still so much to be done. Take Britain, for example, which, despite vocal recognition from the government, is still a fair way behind many of its Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) counterparts when it comes to fibre infrastructure. In fact, it ranks 35th out of the 37 OECD countries for the proportion of fibre in its total fixed broadband infrastructure. The incumbents have been playing their part to close the gap, but interestingly, it has been the emergence of the alternative network providers (altnets) that has really helped the UK catch up – particularly when it comes to some of the most under-served areas of rural Britain. 
 
History repeating 
As a distributor of quality digital infrastructure products and specialist tooling for the communication industry, and an end-to-end solution provider to engineers in various markets since 1918, Mills is well placed to have been at the forefront of many trends and challenges in the industry. The company has shared its tooling, cabling systems, PIA and – in association with CommScope – connectivity equipment, not to mention their heritage of engineering experience, with larger and smaller providers alike for several decades. 
 
Chairman, Jerry Mills said: ‘I’m proud of our heritage. We are a fourth-generation business and we have always been an engineering business. I joined towards the end of the 70s and what we’re seeing at the moment has some similarities with what happened with cable TV in the 80s, when American communication companies came to the UK and initially installed coax cables to provide cable TV, before quickly realising that they could upgrade the coax to a combined Siamese cable to additionally provide customers with a telephone service through their existing ducts.’ Unlike American cable companies from that decade, many emerging, smaller altnets don’t have sufficient financial backing for long-term network growth. 
 
Couple this with an everchanging market and its increased capacity demands, the independents see a significant change in network costs. To help the altnets, global network infrastructure provider CommScope developed the FTTH ePlanner. This is is a UK-specifc planning tool designed to guide network designers through the steps and decisions involved in the network planning process. 
 
The ePlanner helps engineers to quickly identify the best network design topology for any project. At the end of the process, the tool can be used to help the project team create a detailed bill of materials. 
 
Engineers provide input regarding demography type and density, take-up rate business case and any infrastructure constraints. The tool can then walk them through the design aspects that need to be considered, and explains the available options and the pros and cons of each. The completely virtual ePlanner also considers any key regulatory and standards-based requirements that could affect the design. The goal is to help the altnets reduce the amount of time and cost involved in developing and deploying their networks. 
 
Quality street 
As a partner to CommScope, Mills is able to use the ePlanner to help deliver its end-to-end solution package to customers. 
 
Mills explained: ‘CommScope is known as the quality brand in the market. It’s a high-quality, reliable system and with the ePlanner in operation you can tailor it and make it a very cost-effective solution for your customer’s business. It’s very easy to use, as it breaks down into three components: inside plant, outside plant, and then customer connection.’ 
 
In terms of how Mills puts the ePlanner to use, the first step is to have the customer download their own copy, and then set up a video meeting with the architect and the chief engineer of that particular ISP. 
 
‘We would also work in conjunction with CommScope,’ said Mills. ‘They’ve got around 40 to 50 years of experience in building networks and they are also aware of the more specialist products that they’re bringing to the market, that they have developed for certain ISPs.’ 
 
This specialism is an area in which the ePlanner helps Mills ensure they can offer their individual customers exactly the right solution for their individual business. Mills explained: ‘There is a commonality between the ISPs building the networks, but they’ve also all got something different about them, which can make it very difficult to be sure that you’re stocking the right product. CommScope has the most comprehensive range in the business. That’s the reason we partner with them. The ePlanner gives another dimension and it’s something that other connectivity manufacturers can’t offer. 
 
’It is probably the first tool that we use when we’re being asked to consider a network!’ 
 
For Mills, the ePlanner is also something of an affirmation that the company has selected the right connectivity partner, fitting in perfectly with its ‘end-to-end’ promise to customers. ‘From our point of view,’ he said, ‘it complements our growing range of PIA. So we can offer – with CommScope’s help – the complete solution. 
 
We can kit out that solution, from engineers’ tools to the joints and the infrastructure products, so it works very well and it is a good association with CommScope.’
 

 

SPONSORED: FTTH network planning tools

CommScope FTTH network planning tools are specifically designed to guide UK AltNets through the design, selection, and identification of the necessary components for your new, future-proof fibre networks. The FTTH network design overview explains the pros and cons of available technologies and solutions. The FTTH network ePlanner presents 17 ready to implement network topologies from the central office to MDU plus a selection of most common products for each topology, so you can easily create your BOM and speed up your time to market. 

Get your own copy of the FTTH Network Design overview for FREE.

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