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FTTH and Network Inventory: Leveraging the Boom

20 January 2023
Mike Dorland

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


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

At the end of 2022, the boom in worldwide FTTH rollout shows no sign of slowing. But managing FTTH network inventory presents challenges that need to be answered sooner rather than later, especially from a network inventory perspective.

FTTH deployments continue to surge ahead, with massive investments in new infrastructure planned and in-progress – what does this mean for network inventory management? The simple answer is that accurate inventory management is crucial at every stage of the FTTH network lifecycle. Read on to find out why. 

According to research firm PointTopic[1], the total number of global fixed broadband connections had reached 1.3bn by the end of the first quarter, 2022. 90 per cent of the 131 countries tracked reported growth, with the share of FTTH within the total standing at 58 per cent.

In Europe, the FTTH council’s forecasts are equally bullish[2], highlighting the central role FTTH is playing in reducing the rural/urban digital divide. It notes that even in historically strong copper and cable-based countries, the fixed broadband market is now rapidly evolving with alternative service providers driving FTTH deployments in areas not covered by major national players. 

In response, initiatives from incumbents to migrate their core architecture towards FTTH are expected accelerate full-fibre rollouts very quickly in the next few years. In 2022, says the council, the EU39 could reach over 111 million FTTH subscriptions. By 2027, Europe will likely be home to around 190 million FTTH subs.

Outside Europe, the trend is similar. According to Statista[3], FTTH subscriptions in Japan grew for the eighth consecutive year in 2022, with around 36.7 million now active. In the US, Cowen Analysts[4] predicts that FTTH will pass 82 million American households by 2027, doubling its market size in the next five years. Cowen says the four largest US telcos plan to be pass over 71 million homes with fibre growing FTTH’s broadband market share from the current 14% to 26%.

FTTH rollout vc4

FTTH rollout; not “plug and play”

If the direction of travel is now well established, FTTH rollout is not without challenges, foremost among them that of managing FTTH network inventory. As a new year begins, it’s worth reminding ourselves of this point. Moreover, for service providers the challenges aren’t avoidable. If increased bandwidth availability and better quality of service are to be delivered (which legacy copper networks can’t provide), then for successful FTTH deployment in both the consumer and enterprise markets, these goals will have to be met.

So what’s the issue? As we’ve noted, the central challenge is how operators can best manage FTTH network inventory, an operational prerequisite complicated by the increasing adoption of PON technology. 

PON (there are various “flavours” that we won’t dwell on in this blog, but you can learn more about in our previous article on the subject here) essentially enables high speed broadband connectivity via the optical core and wider transport networks. It’s a cost-effective approach to FTTH deployment, using a single fiber strand over the “last mile” to deliver services to the end-user. PON reduces both infrastructure and material costs compared to active, point-to-point systems. 

However, for network operators seeking to bring Fiber to the Home (FTTH), Passive Optical Network (PON) technology isn’t “plug and play”. That is to say, how to deploy it effectively and maximise its value is challenging. Once built, FTTH PON assets need to be operated and managed in tandem with legacy network infrastructure using a unified strategy. That’s something which legacy OSS platforms aren’t designed to accomodate. 

Old world, new world

In some senses, the reality that FTTH deployment isn’t straightforward should come as no surprise. With a new technology, automating provisioning processes, managing network security, optimising asset usage, and maintaining a comprehensive record of network inventory will inevitably be become more complicated. 

But the risk of not finding a solution that enables the operator to follow a customer order from receipt to delivery in the network by effectively managing FTTH network inventory isn’t tenable. Many operator infrastructures still fall short of the mark. This should be worrying; the fragmented IT and network management system that would result from not addressing the issue at the outset can’t be ignored if the goal is commercial success.

Keep the following in mind

So, we’ve established that the FTTH market is booming around the globe, and PON technology is being increasingly widely deployed to address the specific challenge of last-mile delivery. Without drilling down into the details of each technology (not the purpose of this blog), here are three few high-level issues we’d suggest operators would do well to keep in mind as they tackle their own FTTH deployments during 2023.

1. Registration comes first

FTTH/PON asset registration is unexpectedly complex despite the technology itself being fairly simple. If you don’t register assets correctly then you won’t be able to manage your network in an optimal manner.  PON registration is a multi-step process that includes active network registration, passive networks registration, Physical Network Inventory registration, Logical Network Inventory registration, and more. Legacy OSS platforms are rarely able to accommodate these requirements but long-term commercial success depends on an inventory management solution that can. 

2. Service delivery is central

A core value proposition for FTTH is that it enables changing customer expectations to be met. Consumers and businesses alike want services that meet their exact needs That means quicker fulfilment, better connections, faster upgrades, etc. To deliver against expectations, the operator must understand what’s required for any service, what’s missing and what’s needed to fill any gaps. 

It must be able to access automated workflows and have a 360° view of all the assets needed to support a service (physical, logical, virtual) and where they are (see below!). Service delivery and activation, ordering, provisioning and accounting systems must become seamless, end-to-end processes.

Geography matters

As the pace of FTTH rollout increases, bear in mind that, if it isn’t already, GIS will become a core component of your operational arsenal.  We’ve already established that a detailed knowledge of each network asset is vital and this includes its location and other contextual information. 

A network planning process (plan, build, manage) is complex and location information is important in all three phases. GIS provides both location and context information. It tells you about the presence of properties, other utilities, and additional information critical to planning. Being aware of this ultimately ensures a better performing network operation. If you want to learn more about this area, it’s worth reading our white paper: GIS for managing telecom networks

FTTH is here. Network Inventory Management allows its potential to be fully tapped

In the telecommunications industry, processing all of the information outlined above (and more) related to FTTH deployment is the domain of the Network Inventory Management platform. One leading example of this is VC4-IMS, which uses a rigorous set of processes to tackle the challenge. VC4-IMS collects raw data from multiple endpoints in the network, normalises, and then reconciles it. 

In so doing, it delivers a critical, panoramic view all physical and logical resources in the network giving the operator a clear, unified understanding of live FTTH network assets, and their utilisation and configuration at any given time. 

VC4-IMS can also be integrated into the network to perform auto-provisioning (service fulfilment) which facilitates building and rolling out services in the network. The challenge for operators today has moved beyond simply how to deploy FTTH to how ensure its success.