“Sending light down a fibre optic cable the width of a human hair is now transforming how we all work (and play)”

GE’s founder Thomas Edison was at the heart of a technology revolution when he invented an early version of the modern lightbulb, which has had a monumental impact on the industrialised world. This is analogous to the world we live in today where sending light down a fibre optic cable the width of a human hair is now transforming how we all work (and play) – internet-based services like online conference calling, working from home and streaming video have all come into their own in the past few years.
Globally, there is a focus on FTTx deployments with countries at differing levels of maturity. Having worked in South Korea, it’s interesting to see how a digital first society can drive the mantra that a connected society is a ‘necessity’ rather than a ‘nicety’. I recall discussing with colleagues in the early noughties the expectation for mobile phones to have broadband speeds so that interactions with the internet are seamless irrespective of device – the kids want K-Pop, and they want it now!
Looking at this evolution in our society, telecommunications companies are the heart of the transformation, and the UK market is undergoing enormous change. There are many new start-up organisations (CSP’s) making use of Openreach’s infrastructure to provide high speed services. This is in line with the UK government’s target for at least 85% of UK premises to have access to gigabit-broadband by 2025. Initiatives like the Rural Broadband program in Ireland show that the focus is also on rural areas. This will ensure that everyone can access the same level of service, regardless of where they live. 
Here at GE Digital, we are constantly evolving our solutions to ensure our customer’s digital workforce has access to the right tools. We’re focused on widening the availability of geospatial data across organisations to support effective decision making. This digital twin helps drive efficiencies and cost savings across the whole network lifecycle, from automated design and feasibility to fulfilment, accelerated fault impact and root cause analysis.
Pointing again at the UK market, we know our customers need help reducing the ‘time to sale’ and optimizing key processes. One example of this is the integration with the Openreach physical infrastructure access (PIA) portal which has accelerated the planning process for our customers. Importing Openreach PIA data and creating a single continuous geospatial view of a client’s owned and leased network removes the need for dual screening and manual data capture. Further automation of the Notice of Intent (NOI) process from generation to submission via the Openreach portal saves countless hours. Speaking with one customer, this automation saved their planners weeks of manual processing, which means their time is better spent on expanding their networks and driving revenue as opposed to filling in forms.
The automation of the management of the NOI process is a great example of how technology and automation can drive business value. Other innovative approaches can also be used to help accelerate and optimise key aspects of the plan, design, build and operate processes. For example, applying artificial intelligence to determine the lowest cost place to dig new trenches can avoid costly field visits and accelerate the design process. Other innovative approaches include adopting chat bot technology to allow the next generation of field engineers to interact with network inventory platforms and even the public to be involved in fault restoration activities, thus allowing operators to crowd source information to assist with operations. 
In closing, I look to a quote from Thomas Edison that matches how I feel about working in the UK communications market: “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”
If you want to hear more from Colin, he’ll be speaking on a Day 1 of Connected Britain on a panel discussing the role of data in optimising your rollout, alongside colleagues from the UK Telecoms Data Task-Force, CityFibre, Geospatial Commission, and COMSOF. Check out the agenda here and book your ticket now!
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