The rapid increase in digital activity has triggered an unending demand for bandwidth within our telecom network. The culprits? Mass migration to remote work, the ubiquity of online video streaming, the emergence of virtual reality and immersive gaming, and the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. Together, they have fueled the growing need for bandwidth. In 2023, the United States saw 311.3 million Internet users, that’s 91.8% of the population.
Wireless technology has ushered in a new era of expansive coverage and seamless connectivity. Yet, it cannot meet the soaring demand for high bandwidth and increased usage alone. The next decade promises an unprecedented surge in internet users and the challenge of providing universal digital connectivity. The solution? Wireline Network.
The Resurgence of Wireline Solutions
Wireline technology, specifically Fiber to the X (FTTx), is experiencing a resurgence, leading to a significant transformation in the telecommunication network.
FTTx, where ‘x’ symbolizes diverse endpoints such as homes or businesses, presents a more robust and adaptable connectivity solution than traditional copper-based networks. This technology is attracting renewed interest as governments globally have concerted efforts to bridge the digital divide. The objective is to ensure the delivery of affordable, high-quality broadband services to the country’s remote corners where wireless technology is inaccessible or provides poor connectivity.
FTTx supports the backhaul of 5G networks. The Market Research Future (MRFR) report predicts that the FTTx market will grow significantly, reaching $13.7 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.1%.
The Asia-Pacific region currently leads the FTTx market, followed by Europe and North America. However, the telecom industry faces challenges in achieving universal fiber connectivity. In the following sections, we will delve into these challenges in detail.
The Challenges of Wireline Network Engineering in Telecommunication Networks
1. Network Planning and Engineering :
The network planning and engineering process in a wireline network is intricate and demanding. It necessitates selecting optimal technology and carefully considering its potential effects on performance, reliability, and scalability
Failure to adequately assess or properly study the following factors before deployment could lead to the next:
● Geographical Area of Service: Misjudgments in the physical location and size of the area where the network services will be provided can lead to inadequate coverage or overinvestment.
● Anticipated User Demand: Underestimations or overestimations of the expected number of users and the volume of data traffic they will generate can result in network congestion or underutilized resources.
● Nature of Services to be Offered: Misalignment between the type of services provided over the network, such as voice, data, video, etc., and the chosen technology can lead to poor service quality or user dissatisfaction.
● Future Expansion Plan: Lack of foresight in the network’s projected growth and expansion plans, including potential increases in user demand and geographical coverage, can lead to scalability issues and possible costly network upgrades. For instance, in urban areas, FTTH or FTTB may be ideal for high-speed connectivity, while in rural areas, cost-effective solutions like FTTN or FTTC may be more suitable.
2. FTTx Rollout Strategy :
The successful deployment of FTTx networks requires meticulous planning and execution, as various challenges arise throughout the process.
● Design Phase – Delivering Optimal Service: Creating an FTTx network that optimally serves end-users during the design phase is crucial. Several factors must be considered, such as distance from the central office to customer premises, customer density, and service types.
For example, densely populated areas can require intricate network designs to handle the high demand for bandwidth, leading to increased deployment costs and technical intricacies.
The research, performed by RVA LLC Market Research & Consulting (RVA), shows that fiber providers passed 7.9 million additional homes in the U.S. in 2022, representing the highest annual fiber broadband technology deployment ever, even with challenges in materials supply chain and labor availability.
● Build Phase – Addressing Practical Obstacles: The build phase encompasses the practical aspects of network construction, considering existing infrastructure, geographical conditions, environmental considerations, and regulatory requirements.
Alternative deployment methods like aerial fiber may be considered in rural areas with challenging terrain. However, this introduces challenges regarding infrastructure availability and regulatory compliance. For instance, gaining the necessary permissions for installing aerial fiber and ensuring structural integrity can be time-consuming and pose logistical difficulties.
● Operation and Maintenance Phase: Sustaining Network Performance: The operation and maintenance phase involves monitoring network performance, troubleshooting issues, and conducting regular maintenance activities. However, this can be resource-intensive for network operators. It requires skilled personnel, robust infrastructure, and proactive measures to maintain optimal network performance.
3. Operational Support and Preparations :
Moving from old network systems to FTTx is a massive undertaking in itself. One of the biggest challenges is managing outdated and inefficient legacy systems while preparing to transition to FTTx. Compatibility issues often arise due to differences in technology, hardware, or software during this migration. The industry must ensure minimal disruption to existing services during this transition to avoid customer dissatisfaction and potential loss of business.
4. CAPEX and OPEX Regulations :
Procuring equipment and establishing the network infrastructure constitute the initial expenses encompassed by CAPEX. In contrast, OPEX comprises ongoing maintenance, upgrades, and staff salaries. Underestimating these expenses can hamper overall progress, leading to budget overruns and project delays.
Furthermore, CAPEX and OPEX regulations complicate matters. When a telecommunication network company aims to expand its fiber network into rural areas, it must allocate funds for substantial CAPEX requirements, including laying new fiber lines. Simultaneously, the company must effectively manage OPEX, encompassing maintenance tasks for the fiber network and providing adequate customer support. Adhering to financial regulations, including accounting standards and tax laws, is necessary to ensure profitability while meeting regulatory obligations, which is usually a big struggle.
5. Skills and Capabilities :
Wireline Engineering is wrestling with a substantial skills gap that the ongoing Great Resignation has exacerbated. Amidst this mass exodus of talent, there’s a notable shortage in the skill sets required for top network engineering and operations roles. According to a recent report by Eightfold AI, a staggering 33% of these roles lack the necessary skills to address emerging trends in telecommunications, particularly in areas such as 5G and FTTx.
Further complicating this issue is the lack of adequate training opportunities for professionals in the field. This could be due to budget constraints, time limitations, or a simple unawareness of the importance of continuous learning in this fast-paced industry. This skills gap underscores the urgent need for strategic talent management and investment in continuous learning and development.
6. Disruptive Wireless Competiton :
Wireline technology offers numerous advantages but faces obstacles such as longer deployment times and expensive implementation processes that restrict its widespread use. On the other hand, wireless has become popular, although it does not provide high-speed internet, low latency, network reliability, and security at par with wireline. However, wireline engineers can effectively compete with wireless by embracing innovation and adopting hybrid models that combine both technologies’ strengths. This integration enables optimal speed, reliability, and reach even in the most challenging locations and enhances communication capabilities.
7. FTTx Network Implementation :Implementing FTTx networks entails various obstacles impacting the deployment’s cost, feasibility, and efficiency. Some obstacles include:
● Geographical Terrain : Mountainous or rocky regions require extensive drilling and trenching, significantly escalating expenses and time requirements. Such geographical obstacles make the deployment process arduous and resource-intensive.
● Connection Topology : The choice between point-to-point (P2P) and point-to-multipoint (P2MP) connection topologies presents a challenge. While P2P offers dedicated fiber links to each end-user, ensuring high performance, it demands substantial cabling. In contrast, P2MP shares a single fiber among multiple users, potentially compromising individual bandwidth capacity, although it can be more cost-effective.
● Installation Technique : The selection of an appropriate installation technique becomes crucial. Though widely employed, traditional trenching is often associated with drawbacks such as prolonged disruption, high costs, and resource utilization. Alternative methods like directional drilling, micro-trenching, or aerial installation offer potential solutions. Still, they require specialized equipment, skills, and consideration of factors like weather conditions and permissions for pole usage.
● Regulatory and Permit Issues : Navigating the regulatory and permit landscape is critical to FTTx network implementation. Complying with numerous regulations governing safety, environmental impact, construction standards, and data protection is essential. However, ensuring compliance can be time-consuming and intricate, as it involves obtaining multiple permits and approvals from various authorities.
In addition, leveraging existing infrastructure, such as ducts, conduits, or poles, offers cost savings and accelerated deployment. Acquiring legal rights and permissions to access and utilize these infrastructures presents challenges. Ownership issues, agreement complexities, and limited space available within the existing infrastructure can cause delays and complications, adding to the implementation complexities of FTTx networks.
8. Field Service Management
● Latest technology : In field service management, the limited use of the newest technology poses challenges in managing inventory, supplies, and equipment, disrupting smooth field operations. With robust technology solutions, organizations can rely on manual processes, which leads to difficulties in accurately tracking inventory levels, predicting demand, and ensuring the availability of necessary materials.
Furthermore, effective collaboration with field technicians, project managers, and other stakeholders relies on real-time updates, data collection, and reporting. However, field technicians cannot provide them efficiently due to the absence of robust applications and proper workflows. The failure to promptly communicate critical information to the appropriate stakeholders further delays the resolution of field issues. The lack of real-time insights and data-driven decision-making hampers the ability to identify and resolve problems swiftly, potentially impacting project timelines and customer satisfaction.
● Field Coordination : Optimizing field resources, including technicians and equipment, is another challenge. Coordinating the allocation of field technicians to multiple locations for tasks such as surveys, installations, splicing, testing, and maintenance requires careful planning to ensure timely and cost-effective completion. Inefficient resource allocation can lead to delays, increased costs, and customer dissatisfaction.
Techwave Wireline Engineering Services – The Complete Solution to Wireline Network Challenges in Telecom Systems
Rolling out fixed-line networks, especially FTTx and HFC networks, is demanding and comes with many challenges, as previously detailed. However, Techwave has a broad range of services and solutions to tackle these challenges head-on. Here’s how we can assist you in overcoming these obstacles
Techwave’s field services and wireline solutions offer a comprehensive package that combines expertise, analytics, and service management software. Utilizing advanced survey technology, we rapidly capture field data and ensure its quality through multiple validation points.
This high-quality data forms the foundation for meticulous planning, considering the geographic area of service, anticipated user demand, and future expansion plans. This strategic approach enables us to accurately address the multifaceted challenges of FTTx network design and planning, ensuring a robust and efficient network infrastructure.
Moreover, our field service technicians help capture and audit data using handheld tech devices, drones, and LiDAR. This allows for a thorough market analysis to understand the needs and requirements of the telecom systems.
2.Network Plan and Design
Designing and rolling out an FTTx network is complex and requires a comprehensive understanding of various factors. Techwave achieves this by conducting feasibility studies, making build drawings, and doing cost analyses. This method makes the process easy and the execution dependable, all based on correct data and useful insights.
● Feasibility Studies: These studies help determine the viability of the proposed network in a specific region. They consider factors such as the existing infrastructure, the geographical and demographic characteristics of the area, and the potential demand for services. This helps in making informed decisions about the network design and rollout.
● Build Drawings and Cost Analysis : These visually represent the proposed network and estimate the costs involved in its implementation. This allows for better planning and allocation of resources, ensuring that the network is effective and cost-efficient.
● Data Consistency : Techwave ensures data consistency across various data collection methods, whether image, drone, thermal, LiDAR, 2D, 3D, video, or aerial. This ensures that the data used in the planning and design process is reliable and accurate, leading to more effective network designs.
● Integration with Analysis and Design Platforms : Techwave leverages advanced tools and methodologies in the network design process. This can lead to more efficient and innovative network designs, improving the quality of the network and the services it provides.
3.Efficient Field Services
Techwave’s end-to-end expertise in field service operations directly addresses the challenge of field service management in wireline services by:
- Coordinating field service operations – from data collection to analysis and everything in between.
- Streamlining field activities, reducing costs, and ensuring business continuity. We provide project-specific executive dashboards with a quick view of metrics and field team productivity.
4. Inbuilding Field Engineering
The challenge of FTTx network implementation, particularly in the design and build phases, is met by Techwave’s in-building field engineering services. Our custom-configured database built to specifications and construction standards ensures efficient and optimal service delivery, considering factors like customer density and service types.
5. Sustainable Operations and Maintenance
We provide a network operations center for field technician remote support and monitoring. We also employ a custom-configured database built to specifications and construction standards. This ensures sustainable operations and maintenance of the telecommunication network.
6. Regular Database Updates
Techwave’s Geographic Information System (GIS) telecommunication services help manage legacy systems during the transition to FTTx. Regular updates and maintenance of databases ensure accurate and relevant information for the telecommunication network, aiding in seamless integration between the new FTTx systems and the existing infrastructure.
7. Cost Analysis and Optimization
Our cost analysis service addresses the challenge of CAPEX and OPEX regulations. Techwave helps optimize cost and ensure that the telecom systems are aiding project success by visualizing the future of telecommunication networks and making calculations simple and efficient.
8.Overcoming Physical Infrastructure Limitations
Using advanced survey technology and multiple tools allows Techwave to understand the physical infrastructure and design solutions that can overcome its limitations, ensuring a robust and capable network.
Wireline networks present many challenges, but within these challenges lie immense opportunities.
Reach out to Techwave to learn more.