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