Visionstream asked Comsof to adjust its fiber planning software to cope with its specific needs. Resulting in lower trenching cost and quality designs.
Discover how Proximus rolled out FTTH to 2 million homes with the help of Comsof Fiber
Proximus created FTTH network design plans for 2 million homes using Comsof FIber
Discover how their commitment to accurate data ensure that their project stays within budget
Learn how Comsof Fiber allowed them to achieve their ambitions faster and cheaper than manual FTTH network design
Telecommunication companies worldwide are reorganizing operations to ramp up their Fiber-To-The-Home service. A case in point is Proximus, Belgium’s historical telecom leader, who recently started out on large-scale FTTH deployment, arguably the most sizable Belgian telecom infrastructure project in decades. The main challenge will be to keep firm control over the network quality and consistency. “Having flexible FTTX software available to us is crucial.”
Although Belgium has one of the most extensive street-level fiber networks in the world, it has been slow to adopt FTTH. The country is not even listed in the September 2016 global ranking, meaning that at that time FTTH penetration was still below 1%, with most of this accounted for by greenfield deployment. However, Proximus recently announced a 3 billion Euro investment to boost FTTH brownfield deployment throughout the country, starting in the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi, Ghent, Namur and Roeselare. The plan is to achieve 50% coverage of Belgian households by 2026.
The most sizable project in decades
Meanwhile, the decision has had a huge impact on the internal organization, says Filip Corveleyn, Domain Manager Physical Layer and FTTH Engineering at Proximus: “It is without doubt the most sizable infrastructure project we have launched in recent years or even in decades. It’s technically challenging too, considering that fiber is an entirely different technology than the copper wire we have been familiar with for ages. In addition, we have limited field resources, meaning that much of the field work must be outsourced.”
Intensifying design and engineering
On the other hand, it’s essential for Proximus to keep firm control over the network quality and consistency. Corveleyn elaborates: “We can’t afford to deploy FTTH the same way we laid copper wire in the 20th century, with field teams making numerous ad hoc decisions based on local circumstances, leading to suboptimal configurations which are more costly. It’s not only inefficient, it also gives rise to hundreds of separate ‘dialects’, making the network less effective and more difficult to operate and maintain. So, we needed to make a paradigm shift in how we go about it. In FTTH deployment it’s the engineering team who decide on the details, and it’s for the field teams to carry out the plans exactly as designed.”
Defining design principles
This approach, of course, significantly increases what is expected from the engineering team, a reality that quickly became apparent during the Anspach FTTH Pilot Project in the heart of Brussels, an area of x km² near the Grand Place and Manneken Pis. First, Corveleyn and his team developed a Proximus FTTH standard for this area, with principles being defined about how to deal with field particulars such as typical dwelling unit sizes, building block sizes, existing duct infrastructure and the presence of manholes and cabinets. In addition, crossings need to be used sparingly to keep costs and disruption within reasonable limits.
Iterative design method
Second, the network was designed and meticulously engineered with the use of sophisticated software. “We used Comsof Fiber,” says Corveleyn. “This system allowed us to define our own design rules and then automatically generate FTTH designs based on quality GIS data of streets, houses and utility networks, etc. By adjusting the parameters, we could iteratively improve and refine our design. We could also enrich the GIS model with Proximus data gathered during the past and with new field input, enabling us to quickly iterate and improve the design. So, the method greatly facilitated our design and engineering process, which would otherwise have been extremely laborious.”
Masters of the game
The design principles adopted by Proximus, however, can in some circumstances become very complex, challenging the capabilities of the software’s network generation tools. “Local circumstances can vary greatly,” explains Corveleyn, “and we want to be sure that the generated network complies with our design principles in the most minute detail. For example, different split ratios should be taken into account for single versus multiple dwelling units. In addition, it’s essential that we can decide where to override the automatic decisions made by the software. We want to be masters of the game, and be sure that a detailed design reflects our particular quality and deployment standards. That’s what’s great about Comsof Fiber: design rule definition is very flexible and open. The user defines how things should be done, and the software subsequently applies these standards automatically.”
Reduce costs and increase planning stability
Comsof Fiber also allowed Proximus to switch to an alternative deployment scenario along the way. Corveleyn explains: “During the design stage we decided to install fiber along façades instead of in trenches, since this would significantly reduce costs and increase planning stability. The Comsof Fiber consultants showed us how to model this scenario in the software and we managed to generate the network exactly how we wanted it.”
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