A 2020 study
by Uswitch revealed that UK households spent an average of 29 hours offline in the last year, with nearly five million people suffering a single broadband outage of three hours or more. Among those affected were 28 percent of work-from-home employees who experienced a service disruption during working hours. This cost 5 million working days and more than £1.5 billion to the UK’s economy.
Best and Worst UK Cities for Outages
– Cardiff > 0.5 hours
– Leeds 0.7 hours
– Glasgow 0.8 hours
– Nottingham 0.9 hours
– Liverpool 1.3 hours
– Bristol 7.5 hours
– Brighton 7.1 hours
– Belfast 4.6 hours
– London 3.7 hours
– Norwich 2.9 hours
In order to minimize these outages, each network provider need to manage their networks for reliability. That involves more than you think.
The two components of a reliable network
Minimizing network outages has traditionally focused on product testing and experienced field techs. This triage-focused approach, much like Western medicine, tends to focus on the symptoms rather than the cause. To understand the cause of persistent network reliability issues, means going beneath the surface and looking at how the company views the issue of reliability. This can be done on two levels: the intangible and the tangible.
The intangibles: Culture and training
The importance of viewing reliability as a core strategy of the enterprise cannot be overstated. It is the best way to ensure that key tactical initiatives—like product development, manufacturing and technical support—are informed and guided by the commitment to network dependability. As with any strategic initiative, the focus on reliability begins at the top and is driven through the organisation in a variety of ways.
At CommScope, the strategic commitment to reliability finds expression in the company’s dedication to training and knowledge sharing. Every year, we train thousands of technicians around the world. Network operators in need of field expertise have access to hundreds of Field Application Engineers (FAEs) who have decades of hands-on field experience with the specific products the operator is using. This knowledge is then organically transferred across the industry.
For example, CommScope’s global knowledge-sharing network allows network operators to leverage insights and best practices from other operators in the community. Similarly, hundreds of distributors, installers, integrators and technicians, who are trained and certified as part of our global PartnerPRO network, take their newfound knowledge into the field, sharing it with their customers as well.
The tangibles: R&D, products and field support
It is important to realize the degree to which a corporate focus on quality and reliability affects everything else. Building network reliability into the product development cycle—from R&D and engineering, to testing and field support—requires developing solutions for applications, technologies and topologies that may be unproven or unknown. Engineering teams must rely on industry experience and current technical knowledge to identify the core needs of broadband network providers five to ten years from now.
Participating in the development of industry standards provides a good vantage point from which to gauge which technologies and trends will continue to evolve and which will disappear. For example, CommScope participates in approximately 80 different national and global standards organizations—including IEC/ISO, ITU-T, CENELEC, and ETSI. The insights gained from our involvement help inform our product development roadmap and prepare customers for the challenges ahead.
Ensuring reliability during the manufacturing and testing phases poses additional challenges. Today’s FTTx components are specialized based on the specific network environment and configuration requirements. This requires a higher degree of engineering for each deployment and makes testing more involved. Instead of being able to use randomised testing, virtually every component must be analysed for performance and reliability, then validated and documented for quality tracking.
When it comes to testing, there are really three different benchmarks that need to be met. The first is the customer’s performance specifications, which are based on pre-determined network metrics that must be supported. If the network adheres to a standard-based design, then the customer’s standards will either meet or exceed those of the governing standards bodies. In addition, every OEM maintains internal standards which reflect their emphasis on quality. In CommScope’s case, most all internal standards exceed those set forth by the standards bodies.
Even with the best R&D, engineering and testing, issues will occur in the field. This is where field expertise can translate into millions of pounds in savings. The effectiveness of field technicians depends on how quickly they can get on site and their technical expertise. Having highly mobile, strategically-located expertise, like CommScope’s Field Application engineers, enables operators to diagnose and resolve issues quickly and provide training for their staff to help avoid future issues.
The importance of good planning
One of the secret weapons operators have to help improve reliability has nothing to do with the physical network components or how they’re installed. It’s the accuracy with which the network is planned. Mistakes during this critical phase can translate into field issues that affect subscriber service.
CommScope’s FTTH ePlanner is a UK-specific planning tool developed in collaboration with our British customers to help guides network designers through the various steps and decisions in the network planning process. It uses a decision-tree approach, along with network drawings and application recommendations, to help engineers quickly identify the best network design topology for any project.
Using inputs such as demography type and density, take-up rate requirements and infrastructure constraints, the tool walks the engineer through the various network design decisions. At the end of the process, ePlanner recommends the best topology, cluster size, physical deployment options, and actives utilisation for the best-case scenario. The result is a more solid and reliable network design that can shave days off the time required for planning.
Increasing SLAs driving reliability
As Britain’s expanding fibre footprint enables more 5G and IoT deployments, both national networks and AltNet operators will need to increase service level agreements for residential and business subscribers. At the same time, they must provide increasing bandwidth, deal with latency requirements, rapidly changing network conditions and higher churn. The bottom line? Network reliability will play an increasing role in determining success.
To see how the FTTx ePlanner can ensure greater network reliability and faster planning, click here
. For more information on ways to provide the always-on connectivity your subscribers expect, check our interactive “Network Reliability Playbook