The river Thames

Utilising existing infrastructure for fibre rollout when connecting Britain

By Rob Leenderts

In the UK, it is the Government’s target that by 2025, at least 85 percent of premises are to have gigabit broadband connections. To reach these numbers, a lot of fibre is needed for homes and businesses. There are intense activities to become the most reliable broadband provider, with a number of aspiring businesses aiming to help out when connecting Britain.

When providing fibre networks, it is of critical importance to deliver a top-quality service to end-customers, and to set up a sustainable business which can run smoothly for years to come. With time constraints environmental issues, and the impact of Covid to consider, broadband is now more crucial than ever.

Child with mother on computer
In order to connect Britain, reliable broadband is needed for homes and businesses.

Gaining access to existing infrastructure from the incumbent is vital to speed up and reduce cost of deployment. The initiative, called Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA), is part of the aim to reduce costs, and speed up deployment for connecting the UK. PIA has two products, where one is for ducts and the other one for poles:

  • Ducts – the network owner gets a license to install sub-duct and/or cable in the Openreach ducts.
  • Poles – the network owner gets a license to attach and maintain equipment on the existing Openreach poles.

In order to use the duct and pole infrastructure, you need to know if it is worth using PIA for your fibre network, how it can be used, and also, how it integrates with your own network.

Access and integrate PIA data automatically with dpCom

With dpCom, Digpro’s software designed for telecom and fibre, it has previously been possible to import PIA data manually. This has now been further developed and automated via the new Openreach PIA API, which is designed to support UK network owners who wish to apply for and use PIA. Let us consider what you need to know when deciding if using PIA will be beneficial for your network business.  We will also look what support dpCom, and the automatic access to PIA data, can do for you.

Is it worth using PIA for your fibre network?
To find out whether it will be financially beneficial to use PIA, the first thing to do is to map the geographic area where your fibre network will be rolled out. With dpCom, it is now possible to click on the map, and almost instantly get the PIA data for the selected area of the map visible in the user interface. dpCom shows all data that is provided from Openreach.

Man working on computers with digital maps
With the PIA API, you can zoom in and out of maps. By clicking on a selected area, you get the associated PIA data. This includes types, categories, IDs and more, for each asset.

Should the geographical area in mind be in fairly untouched rural areas, where there is no existing duct and pole infrastructure, it may be both cheaper and easier for you to dig your own ducts. However, should you be operating in a densely populated area, it is more complicated and expensive to dig fibre ducts. dpCom provides cost calculation tools, with which you can look at a variety of options. You can get the cost of one selected area, or compare two or more alternative designs, to find the best solution for you.

How can the PIA duct and pole infrastructure be used for your fibre network?
When gathering the data from the PIA API, dpCom will import all assets provided by Openreach, including all available information. You will see duct paths, as well as cabinets, chambers and poles. These assets can then be integrated and used together with your own network data in dpCom. It can easily be distinguished what your own network is, and where you are using the PIA assets. dpCom will also visualize the gathered data with Capacity RAG status based on the Available Capacity of the pole and duct asset.

Watch a demonstration of the PIA API in this video.

Support during the application process

Should the above questions conclude that you should use PIA, you will be further supported by dpCom. You can collate all the information relevant to the application, and attach photos of poles and other assets, as well as pull out reports for the assets you intend to request use of. This is what we mean when we say that you can save time and money – the integration developed by Digpro gives you a much faster, and economical solution.

Support during the fibre rollout

Once the application to use PIA is accepted, you have to decide upon your infrastructure and fibre rollout. All the data you have already used during the decision phase and application process can be further used in dpCom. Since dpCom supports the full lifecycle of a network, from planning and designing to operating and maintaining, you already have a solid foundation when creating a digital twin of your network. With all your data correctly collated in one system, you have a strong foundation for delivering that top-quality service, and to maintain a sustainable fibre network business. dpCom will support you all the way: from planning and designing to operating and maintaining.

dpCom supports network owners throughout the full lifecycle of planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining a fibre network, and includes full support for PIA. dpCom also provides support for business processes, network information and analysis, fault management and day-to-day management. Do you want to know more?  Contact one of our engineers for a demonstration

Meet the expert

Rob Leenderts

Rob Leenderts is a subject matter expert in Wholesale Broadband, Open Access, Backhaul Solutions, GIS/OSS/BSS systems and re-use of Public Sector Assets.

He is a founder member and Board Director of INCA – the Trade Association for those working to develop independent next generation broadband services in the UK.

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