Broadband for Everyone: Navigating Today’s Constrained Labor Market

Today's labor shortage is not restricted to a single country, region, or continent. It is a global issue that has the potential to impede access to broadband for people everywhere. In this blog, we’ll provide a few pointers to help service providers expand their networks in a time when broadband technicians are in short supply.

These days, it’s no secret that workers of all kinds are in short supply. This shortage is particularly acute for the technicians who construct fiber networks and deploy broadband technologies, and it is only deepening. Consider this: to date approximately 1.2B households globally have access to FTTH services. Over the next 5 years, this is forecasted to increase by approximately 500M new households. This 40% increase represents an unprecedented growth rate in broadband proliferation.

As service providers expand their footprints, pass new households, and connect new subscribers, the work to be done will quickly outgrow the workforce of skilled technicians who are available to do it. Not only is there increasing demand for workers, but as the great resignation continues, the supply of workers has the potential to decrease. The labor shortage is not restricted to a single country, region, or continent. It is a global issue that has the potential to impede access to broadband for people everywhere.

In this blog, we’ll provide a few pointers to help service providers expand their networks in a time when broadband technicians are in short supply.

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Hardened connector technologies cut down on manual splicing

One of the most effective ways to free up broadband workers is by decreasing the work it takes to install fiber in the outside plant. Hardened connector technologies speed and simplify fiber installation significantly by reducing and even eliminating the need to perform fiber splicing in the field. Using hardened connector technologies, technicians simply clean the fiber end points and plug them in. This makes existing techs more productive than ever while simplifying training for new workers. It also improves the quality and reliability of each fiber split, tap, and splice, since hardened connectors are manufactured in a controlled environment and tested to extremely high standards.

Network architectures drive efficiency in the passive layer

Because of the diversity in deployment scenarios around the world, one architecture does not fit all applications. That’s why one of greatest opportunities to drive efficiency and eliminate unnecessary labor in the passive layer is to leverage an appropriate network architecture that is well suited to the deployment environment. For highly dense and diverse environments, such as metropolitan areas, a centralized split architecture often offers the most flexible approach. In suburban areas where FTTH connects a majority of subscribers, a cascaded PON architecture creates deployment efficiency. And for extremely low-density environments, such as rural areas, a TAP architecture may be the best choice. The right architecture can significantly drive down CAPEX expenses and improve ROI.

Modular connectivity solutions reduce complexity for technicians

Installers use a wide range of enclosures, terminals, and components to roll out fiber networks across various deployment scenarios. These connectivity solutions are often highly specialized, featuring a distinct combination of interfaces, technologies, fiber types, and even variability in mounting options. This creates some serious complexity for installers. Leveraging a modular connectivity solution can simplify all aspects of managing and deploying a network rollout, from product training for installation crews to warehouse and stock management through to future network upgradability.

Cloud-based PON management simplifies provisioning and maintenance

With traditional hardware-based PON solutions, turning up new OLTs and performing device maintenance can be a specialized, time consuming task. That’s because the OLT’s control and management functions reside on the PON devices and are typically accessed via command line interfaces (CLIs) that aren’t always intuitive. But modern, cloud-based management reduces the complexity of provisioning and maintenance and enables technicians to perform many of these tasks remotely. These intelligent systems recognize and automatically provision new OLTs and virtual OLTs as soon as they’re powered up in the field, automate repetitive tasks, enable GUI-based management, and perform network-wide software updates via the cloud. This level of intelligence reduces the complexity of PON management, while significantly decreasing administrative overhead for skilled technicians.

Service assurance platforms proactively resolve network issues

Finding and fixing performance issues can take significant time for already-stressed network technicians, especially when the issues are small or intermittent. In rural networks, where the distance between fiber connections and active equipment is long, the travel time needed to troubleshoot the network can also be significant. Service assurance platforms can reduce the time it takes to troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair issues significantly. They collect important data from the network and use artificial intelligence and machine learning to find small issues that have the potential to impact performance. This can all be done centrally, not only reducing the time it takes to resolve issues, but also helping to prevent downtime and outages from happening in the first place.

 Broadband for everyone is coming—even with a constrained workforce

At CommScope, we see broadband for everyone as inevitable. While there are challenges, including a shortage of the skilled workers, we view them as opportunities to innovate, to partner with the industry, and to extend high quality broadband to everyone on earth. The CommScope team is committed to examining these issues in detail as our broadband for everyone campaign continues. We hope you’ll take this journey with us by subscribing to our blog and joining in the conversation.   

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