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Municipal FTTH networks

A guide to municipal fiber-to-the-home networks

Skyrocketing demand for internet and communication services has forced network builders to rethink how they deliver high-speed broadband to subscribers. Many are moving away from metal wiring to fiber optic cable, which offers numerous advantages, including higher bandwidth capacity, increased durability, lower interference, and better security.

Throughout this transition, fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks have grown increasingly important as people demand higher internet speeds for personal consumption. In the U.S., there are approximately eight internet-enabled devices per person today and 21 devices per household. 

FTTH solutions provide the best opportunity for network designers to meet the demand and tech requirements of modern-day internet consumption. However, it takes significant expertise to build and manage FTTH networks effectively. Municipalities, in particular, struggle to optimize FTTH deployments due to the complex nature and scope of such projects.

At IQGeo, we help local government leaders understand what they need to plan, design and implement FTTH broadband solutions successfully in their communities.

In this guide, municipalities can find information regarding how to assess FTTH opportunities, commonly used deployment methodologies, and much more.

What are the advantages of FTTH networks for municipalities?

There are many reasons why municipalities choose to invest in their own FTTH networks. Beyond providing high-speed internet to constituents, local governments can increase both the attractiveness and long-term financial outlooks of their communities. 

A well-executed FTTH strategy can:

  • Attract new businesses and industries
  • Draw new skilled talent to the area
  • Drive overall economic growth
  • Entice home buyers
  • Expand the local tax base
  • Improve employee and company retention
  • Reduce telecommunication infrastructure costs

Although there are upfront and ongoing expenditures to consider, the long-term benefits of a sophisticated FTTH infrastructure far outweigh the costs if implemented well.

How do municipalities evaluate FTTH opportunities?

Every city is different. Broadband needs vary significantly depending on the priorities of the local leadership team, the demographic characteristics of the community, and the degree to which global trends influence local behaviors. 

Decision-makers should thoroughly evaluate FTTH projects from multiple angles before moving forward. Below is an overview of the types of approaches used to consider the various dimensions of FTTH deployments.

FTTH needs assessment

Municipalities must conduct a needs assessment to learn what gaps currently exist in the local broadband landscape, as well as how demand may change over time. Needs assessments should estimate broadband demand in terms of speed requirements, the number of unique subscribers, and how many devices subscribers possess.

It is important to factor in broader trends that may impact FTTH demand, such as the rise in remote work and the types of multimedia content available at home. As video streaming, video calling, online gaming, and more increase in popularity, so will the need for higher in-home broadband speeds. 

It is also crucial to consider how demographic characteristics - such as education, age distribution, and average household income - might affect internet consumption. For example, younger populations tend to use more bandwidth-heavy services, as do higher-income households. If municipality leaders expect to serve more individuals within these groups, they will likely need more FTTH bandwidth capacity.

Conducting a needs assessment is a necessary early step for quantifying what level of FTTH service might be required today and into the future. 

FTTH feasibility studies

The purpose of a feasibility study is to consider how well-positioned a municipality is to design and launch a FTTH network successfully. Feasibility studies can address both financial and non-financial factors. 

On the financial side, feasibility studies examine the potential costs associated with planning, designing, and building a FTTH network. Architects should consider construction expenses for multiple types of builds (e.g. aerial versus underground) and compile a list of all components needed to support the level of demand calculated in the needs assessment.

Feasibility studies should also dive into the local competitive landscape. Leaders should know what incumbent broadband providers offer to subscribers. During feasibility studies, it is common for municipalities to run speed tests and gather pricing data that help set performance targets for potential FTTH deployments. Additionally, local governments should gather information related to regulatory requirements that could impact network implementation.

FTTH economic impact assessment

Economic impact assessments complement feasibility studies and may even overlap in certain areas. In addition to calculating capital expenditures for future deployments, governments should have a clear picture of their current telecommunication infrastructure costs. 

Leaders should know how much the municipality spends per household to provide phone, cable, and internet services today. On top of that, the economic impact exercise should consider how much current-state infrastructure would cost if maintained over the next several decades. That way, decision-makers can determine if a FTTH project would save money compared to sticking with the status quo. 

Another dimension to evaluate on the economic front is how a municipality would pay for a FTTH project. Tax revenues, municipal bonds, loans, grants, and redirected expenses are all ways that local governments raise capital for new networks. It is also not uncommon for cities to enter partnerships with private entities for FTTH developments.

FTTH engineering analysis

Engineering analyses are critical for identifying the specific systems and infrastructure needed in custom municipal broadband solutions. In this process, expert FTTH network designers and engineers collaborate to determine the optimal strategy for meeting local government broadband requirements.

Engineering analyses should consider:

  • Convergence and integrations
  • Existing capacity and future expansions
  • Future smart city goals, if applicable
  • Other carrier networks
  • Network architecture (home run, centralized split, distributed split, and distributed tap)
  • RFoG, GPON, EPON, and PON technologies

The engineering analyses occurs after information is obtained about existing fiber infrastructure in the area. The process is also important for understanding what level of labor and skill is needed to successfully execute any proposed design.

What are the critical elements in municipal FTTH networks?

FTTH networks consist of many elements. Municipal network builders should understand how the following enable their broader FTTH goals:

  • Optical fiber cable
  • Central office
  • Optical line terminal
  • Optical splitter
  • Optical network terminal

Optical fiber cables are the backbone of municipal FTTH networks. The appropriate cable type for a municipal FTTH network depends on the installation method and number of fibers needed in a single cable. 

Central offices, or headend, host optical line terminals (OLTs) and optical distribution frames (ODFs), as well as power the overarching infrastructure. The central office is what enables devices in broadband networks and determines how well FTTH deployments can fulfill broadband demands.

Optical line terminals are the hardware end devices used in passive optical networks (PONs). They provide essential functions, such as scheduling, bandwidth allocation, and buffering for FTTH networks. OLTs contain native central processing units, gateway routers, voice gateways, and PON cards.

Optical splitters separate signal power so that individual fibers can service many subscribers. Splitters are characterized by how they split input light beams across output cables. For example, a 1x4 optical splitter takes a signal and divides it evenly across four output fibers that each serve a different subscriber.

Optical network terminals convert optical signals into electrical signals at customer premises and demultiplex signals according to different services, such as cable, internet, and telephone.

How do municipalities manage their FTTH networks?

Once FTTH networks are designed and built, municipalities must be able to manage their infrastructure effectively going forward. Network operators should be equipped to troubleshoot issues quickly, document and store network data, and track key performance indicators.

Often, municipalities do not have the in-house talent or processes required to do this on a consistent basis. They neglect to invest in management capabilities in conjunction with planning, designing, and building their FTTH infrastructure. Many local governments still rely on paper-based documentation to keep track of fiber records, which makes it hard for operators to stay on top of network developments and issues. 

Those who recognize the importance of fiber network management typically use software-based platforms that can store network data and produce accurate visual representations of real-world FTTH networks, also referred to as a digital twin. When evaluating potential partners to assist in FTTH deployments, municipalities cannot forget to account for how they will maintain quality broadband performance for subscribers daily basis.

Optimize FTTH network management with IQGeo

With a fiber network management platform, like IQGeo’s Network Manager Telecom, municipalities have everything they need to thrive in the modern era. Our software has helped private and public operators plan, design, build, and maintain sophisticated fiber networks across the globe

With our Network Manager Telecom Insight edition, municipalities can streamline fiber documentation as needed to maximize network operations. Interested in learning more about how IQGeo can help your municipality with a new FTTH development? Book a demo today.

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