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The WDM and GPON Network Planning System – Building out your Network Successfully

20 April 2023
Mike Dorland

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


National Grid
Open Fiber
TPX Communications
Ella Link
Red Iris
Surf Net

Spurred by the rapid evolution of network technologies, today’s operators must provide their customers with innovative services that require ubiquitous broadband access, in the process managing and planning the rollout of their networks in a way that ensures future profitability.

The WDM and GPON network planning system – building out your network successfully

To keep pace in a changing operational landscape, characterized by evolving technologies including Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) and GPON, operators must find answers to many questions, particularly those related to network planning. 

Network planning is a critical function. It aims to ensure that the performance of the network meets the needs of both the subscriber and operator by planning, designing, and optimizing all the components that make up the network, and providing the coverage footprint to reach the widest possible audience. 

Of course, planning is a critical task for all operators, but it’s especially important for those that have mandatory coverage requirements. In any event, planning requires a variety of inputs including the costs of transmission, the cost of switching, the location of network elements, routing paths, location of physical circuiting, and much else. 

The outcomes and impact of effective planning are wide-reaching. They enable the operator to answer a variety of questions, such as:

  1. Where are the gaps in my existing network?
  2. How best to expand network coverage? 
  3. How can I meet new demands and recruit new customers? 
  4. How to guarantee of quality of service?
  5. How can I enhance the existing service portfolio to secure the best ROI and competitive advantage? 
  6. Where are additional network resources required?
  7. What are its operations and maintenance needs?

…and many others.

Successful planning is achieved through a variety of processes that focus on understanding the network topology and ensuring that any additions to it (in the form of new networks or services) deliver as intended – and that new assets and infrastructure are rolled out cost-effectively. 

To do this, planning will take into account technical, economic, and demographic metrics.

Effective planning can ultimately be defined as leveraging these metrics to ensure the network performs in a way that delivers maximum value at acceptable cost. A crucial ingredient to successful planning is an awareness and ability to manage network inventory.

Rapid network evolution makes effective planning essential

The importance of planning is, as we’ve noted, heightened by the rapid evolution of network technologies. We mentioned earlier two examples of these that impact on network inventory and planning and are thus worth looking at more closely.

Driven by demand for ubiquitous broadband access, Optical Transport Networks are growing, and this is driving a boom in the fiber and WDM market. The footprint of Passive Optical Networks themselves, meanwhile, is expanding because PON enables advantages for both network operators and their customers such as reduced costs for the former and improved experience for the latter. It’s particularly attractive because PON technology uses a single fiber strand over the “last mile” to deliver services to multiple end-users. 

For network planners, this lowers both the infrastructure and material costs of rollout. Passive Optical Networks come in a variety of incarnations including GPON, APON, BPON and 10G-PON (XG-PON).  GPON (Gigabit PON)  and XG-PON are currently the most ubiquitous versions, using one wavelength for downstream traffic so that’s what we’ll focus on in this blog. But, the choice of tech is also a factor in the planning decision process.

network planning system

GPON and WDM both present challenges to managing network inventory

Because both technologies add complexity to the network, they automatically present challenges for network planning. With WDM, this is the case because of the needed wavelength and ODU. GPON, in contrast, requires the accurate registration of both active (OLT/ONT) and passive (fiber, ODF, Splitter, etc) assets in one single inventory application, which can be difficult to achieve if you don’t have the right tools. Without which operators risk losing full control of their network inventories.

WDM challenges

Operators must fully understand their WDM assets such as all equipment, shelves, cards and pluggable cards, ports, physical and logical connections (OTS, OMS, OCH, ODUx), client connections, patch cables to ODFs, (dark) fiber networks, and others so they can create and manage an accurate but expanded network inventory that provides a full view of all its elements.  Plus, WDM raises specific network planning considerations because operators must support a mix of high bandwidth services delivered, and often over different WDM network vendor networks. Different WDM equipment vendors often use a different WDM layering structure making it more difficult. And if that is not complex enough, all these WDM and connected MPLS and other transmission networks are interconnected. Such interconnects are not present in the Network Management Systems (NMS) of each WDM vendor, making a good network inventory and planning system crucial. 

Additionally, WDM planning requires fiber infrastructure and many operators still work with fiber networks in drawings and excel sheets. When such data silos exists, it is hard for the network planner to do his/her work.

GPON challenges 

Similarly, while GPON technology may be a cost-effective way to deliver Fiber to the Home (FTTH) by covering the “last mile” with a single strand that delivers high Internet speeds to multiple end users, making it work in practice isn’t straightforward because there are more network elements, passive and active, to register and track correctly, which isn’t an easy process. So GPON like WDM presents challenges to network operations and planning alike.

From a planning perspective in GPON networks, optimal fiber routes are essential to save construction costs. Many operators plan manually via drawings and so the network infrastructure is managed in different systems, making it hard for planners and operations. Traditionally, geographical fiber routings are managed in a GIS system, separately from the active and logical network inventory (the famous PNI and LNI – Physical Network Inventory and Logical Network Inventory). But since GPON and WDM are so popular, the need is for inventory and planning systems that are both PNI and LNI, meaning GIS and active and logical network inventory in 1 single system.  

Designing and activating a service, managing capacity, troubleshooting and other functions are difficult or impossible to automate with legacy OSS solutions.

VC4-IMS: the tool for network operations and planning

As the examples above make clear, Network Inventory Management systems are critical to successful managing and planning the build out the network. Yes, in theory networks could evolve from simply drawing together components in a random way, but doing so is unlikely to deliver a high-performing network that meets the needs and expectations of operators and users alike. 

Planning seeks to ensure the delivery robust, high-performing networks that appropriately support the applications and services carried over them. With poor planning, underperforming networks that suffer from lag and poor response times and which therefore ultimately compromise profitability follow. Worse, we won’t be able to reach new customers or optimize the connectivity options we provide.

Solutions must be selected that enable operators to accommodate and leverage the pace of change in the industry to their advantage. Passive Optical Networks and WDM technology provide two examples of how the right system choices deliver benefits, giving their users access to a consolidated repository of all the data associated with each (new) network asset and service path. This awareness of asset placement, performance, capability, usage, status, and more is vital for both optimal performance and future network planning.  

VC4-IMS, the leading Network Inventory Management solution, can show operators how to bring clarity to their assets and provide a foundation for ensuring that investments in agile network evolution deliver the desired Return on Investment.

VC4-IMS eliminates scattered data silos, unlocking a single, consolidated view of the network. From network planning, to build and on to operations, VC4-IMS supports the full-service lifecycle, helping users to manage complex networks and plan investments more effectively for future evolution. It can help any network operator – fiber, broadband, mobile – to manage its infrastructure, connections, and customer relationships.

PNI and LNI, Active and Passive network registration and GIS, all in one solution.
VC4-IMS – the single source of truth.