Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2014

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 59 and substantial investment, so careful planning is essential. Te time to start is now. THE CHALLENGES OF PLANNING Planning a citywide network for high- speed Internet access is an enormous challenge. Many cities have neither the expertise nor the experience to do this planning in-house, so they need to invest in tools and/or outside consultants just to get started. Planning is critical, as even larger investments will be required for network engineering and construction. Any city should leverage investments it has already made wherever possible. Most cities have invested in GIS technology and software to convert maps and records, so existing infrastructure must be identifed and integrated into the plan. Estimating and forecasting costs and revenues are also of major importance. Costs are often estimated based on rules of thumb or engineering judgment. Tese methods are seldom good enough to justify the substantial commitments a community must make to a project. A lot is at stake, and city leadership needs to know what a project will cost to build its business case on a solid foundation. Cities must plan for the long haul and build infrastructure to handle both present needs and future growth. Such planning may increase the overall complexity and initial investment for the project, but it will dramatically reduce the overall costs. City leaders and planners must also decide which network architecture and technologies to use. Any single technology is unlikely to suit all applications, as a citywide network serves a combination of residences, businesses and institutions, scattered across the GIS footprint, with varied needs for services and connection speeds. Tese early decisions about architecture and technology also add to the complexity of the planning process but will have profound and lasting efects on the costs and overall results of the project. For example, getting fber into community anchor institutions – public buildings, schools, libraries, hospitals and so forth – is often the frst priority. Te fber backbone that connects these institutions is then available as the jumping-of point for distribution networks to reach residences and small businesses throughout the community. A NEW BREED OF PLANNING TOOLS Tus, a city thinking about putting a broadband Internet access network in place has a set of complex and critical decisions to make, and it must make many of them very early in the project. Until recently, network planners had nothing but maps, spreadsheets and calculators to assemble the data to inform these critical decisions. Although software is available to design networks, manage projects and inventory assets, these systems assume that planners have already decided which architectures and technologies they will use, where fber cables will be routed and where network nodes will be located. Now a new breed of software tools, developed specifcally for planning high- speed Internet networks, is emerging. For example, Network Design Decisions Inc. recently released NOCPlan XS, a planning and decision support system for high-speed Internet networks. Te planning process starts with assembling a set of data for the service area and loading this data into a project fle. Tis data is organized and presented in layered GIS format, with roads and streets overlaying the geography. Some municipalities already have this data assembled in publicly available databases. Otherwise, it is readily available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Figure 1 shows a typical project fle for a medium-sized city in the southern United States. Te city's population is about 65,000, with 29,000 households, 3,400 business locations and 100 anchor institutions and cell towers. Te city is considering building an all-fber network throughout the city to connect residential customers and businesses with GPON technology and Figure 1: A typical project fle for a medium-sized city in the South Planning for the long haul may increase project complexity and initial investment but will dramatically reduce the overall costs. BBC_Jan14.indd 59 1/27/14 1:47 PM

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