Changing the Economics of Full Fibre Roll Outs

The economic and social benefits of ‘full fibre’– or Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – are driving a significant acceleration in full fibre projects globally. This is particularly the case in the UK – led by Government targets to enhance the fibre infrastructure throughout the country.

As an example, earlier this year the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) announced that it is partnering with Virgin Media Business to roll out nearly 3,000km of new fibre optic broadband infrastructure across Greater Manchester.

The project represents the UK’s largest full fibre networks programme, supported by a £23.8 million investment as part of the Digital Blueprint for Greater Manchester launched in February 2020.

As with all full fibre roll outs, the GMCA intends for the project to underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects – to support economic growth and jobs for businesses and residents across the region.

Fibre installation clearly benefits the region and supports the commitment to a smart city future, but fibre providers and local authorities should recognise that they have significant further opportunity to maximise the value of full fibre roll outs.

Beyond connectivity

While the connectivity benefits of full fibre networks are immediate, with Distributed Acoustic Sensor (DAS) Technology, fibre can provide so much more than gigabits per second. In addition to data connectivity, DAS could convert Manchester’s full fibre roll out into a powerful sensor network covering the whole region.

As we have written about previously, DAS can derive significant additional value for cities from fibre infrastructure. DAS-enabled fibre networks can be used to run traffic networks, to protect critical infrastructure and, more broadly, fundamentally change the ways cities operate.

What is even better for projects like the one in Greater Manchester, is that DAS essentially ‘plugs in’ to the fibre network, these benefits can be delivered at minimal incremental cost to installers. And with the addition of DAS, the new network can perform two functions at once: providing high speed connectivity; and capturing actionable smart city data.

This is a significant commercial opportunity for telecoms companies to further monetise their networks.

Optimising fibre networks for DAS

While DAS is not currently part of the Greater Manchester project, new fibre roll outs like this – with the installation work taking place over the next 12 months – are the perfect opportunity for fibre providers to deploy DAS technology.

There are some very simple steps fibre installers can take to maximise the capabilities of DAS – and therefore maximise the quality of DAS data as well as improve data revenues for fibre providers.

These steps can often be as simple as incorporating a few extra metres of cable at key points in the network. For example, fibre networks are typically installed using a ‘trunk’ and ‘branch’ pattern. However, DAS is optimally deployed on continuous ‘loops’ of fibre. This can be achieved simply by adding connections at the ends of some of the ‘branches’ of fibre networks.

Securing full value from every metre of fibre

There are already a number of live deployments of DAS in cities in multiple countries, but its potential will only grow as smart cities become more sophisticated.

We are working closely with fibre providers in the UK and globally to help them understand how DAS works and how they can optimise their networks to realise the full benefits of DAS – both commercial and as a source of new data insights.

Projects like the roll out by GMCA are significant investments – and DAS offers the opportunity to enhance the economics of these roll outs and to fundamentally shift the ROI calculations. DAS is key to ensuring that additional revenue can be derived from every single metre of installed fibre.




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