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Accelerating Network Planning into the 21st Century

By Published On: February 23, 2022

The old cliché of “Time is Money” certainly applies to major network builds in multiple aspects. Delays in network design plans mean delays in funding applications and approvals. Being able to submit information in advance of calendar deadlines enables you to quickly unlock funding opportunities by putting your proposals at the top of the stack instead of being buried under hundreds of others.

Planning a fiber build is fraught with headaches when using traditional manual methods. Service providers need to make decisions on major capital investments, considering multiple (and always evolving!) network technologies and architecture, typically with little time to perform a proper analysis of tradeoffs between cost and coverage. Geo-spatial information system (GIS) tools are a start to plan and estimate fiber routes and cost, but GIS mapping cannot provide the flexibility to evaluate different options at the click of a button.

Until recently, network planning has been done manually, with cost estimates usually generated on a small portion of the footprint and extrapolated across the entire build plan. Cost figures in the model are overestimated by a significant amount to ensure there aren’t overruns, but it leaves a high level of uncertainty in the process. Uncertainty isn’t welcome by stakeholders on the ground or potential funding sources.

Enter NetVersant automated design and optimization (ADO) software, a tool by Versant Solutions Group that can accelerate network design from several weeks to a few hours. ADO technology provides the ability to generate preliminary designs in accordance with a service provider’s rules and equipment specifications, optimal routing of fiber as required, and integration with existing plant engineering platforms when needed, thus delivering savings of time and cost when compared to manual planning and design methods.

Faster preliminary designs create the time to generate scenarios by examining the use of different network elements, architectures, and coverage areas. Once selected, the most overall appropriate design can be fine-tuned and used to generate final plans and cost estimates with much more accuracy than a manually-generated network proposal. Cost estimates and the underlying bill-of-materials can be exported for use by other platforms, keeping the acquisition and general accounting people happy.

Using NetVersant ADO provides a much higher level of certainty in project costs since the entire network footprint is being calculated in the automated design run, rather than a manual sample extrapolated to the whole – not to mention much more rapidly. While there can be changes during field validation and construction, the degree of any changes are far fewer than with manually produced design and costing models.

The ability to holistically compare designs and cost estimates for different network architectures provides a level of comfort with the final network for all stakeholders both when construction is completed and in the years that follow.

Network expansions and upgrades can be easily modeled using an existing NetVersant ADO reference design, either from an initial build or by importing data from an existing network. And information requests from local regulatory bodies can be seamlessly met by leveraging the ADO database and its plans.

For securing federal and state/provincial funding (e.g., RDOF, ReConnect, USF, BEAD, UBF), speed is a vital advantage in applying for funding and responding to follow-up information requests. Each of these funding mechanisms includes milestones and deadlines that must be met for the funding to flow. What operators cannot afford is delays caused by antiquated planning tools that leave some elements to extrapolation instead of facts. Using NetVersant ADO provides the speed to deployment advantage so that companies can plan, deploy, and deliver on their time.