Keeping an eye on the networks

Buddie Ceronie, global general manager for telecommunications at VertiGIS, talks to Comms Business about why documenting everything on your network inventories is critical to success.

Buddie Ceronie, global general manager for telecommunications at VertiGIS, said that being able to accurately document everything on your network inventories from the start of a project is critical to the success of broadband and fibre providers.

Ceronie said that with the build-out of networks by Openreach and altnets reaching an inflection point where subscriber uptakes were starting to accelerate, it's vital providers fully document their inventory.

"Every altnet needs to build a brand and find a way to attract those subscribers as quickly as possible to essentially underpin a sustainable business going forward," said Ceronie. "Today speed is a given, so now you need to differentiate yourself by offering higher and more reliable service levels.

"The first principal is to accurately document your network from day one. By doing so, you can predict the feasibility of providing a connection to a building or an enterprise, or even an area, far more easily. You don’t have to send out an engineer to look at the network as everything has been documented on your physical inventory system, right down to which fibres are active, and which ducts or poles they are in."

During a distinguished career, Ceronie has led 3Com's UK and emerging market subsidiaries and Avaya's UK and Ireland, Northern European and emerging market businesses as managing director and vice president, as well as 27 subsidiaries of Siemens Enterprise Networks. Before joining VertiGIS in December 2023, he was an M&A advisor and operating executive of telecoms software companies for global private equity funds including ESW Capital, Oaktree and Gemspring.

Currently, Ceronie runs VertiGIS' telecoms business unit. His remit covers working with operators, telcos and utility companies that own or operate fibre networks.

Geospatial technology

One of the most significant advances in network management that Ceronie has witnessed during his time in the industry has been the introduction of geospatial technology to enable broadband and fibre network providers to make better and more informed decisions based on the available data. By using digital twins or virtual representations of an object or system designed to accurately reflect a physical object, he said that companies can now derive greater value from their network.

"By using technology such as optical time domain reflectometry, you can identify a fault in a system, display it using geospatial mapping or layout technology and then show the engineer who is going out to fix it exactly where it is," said Ceronie. "You can also carry out an impact analysis to work out how many premises have been affected and, by using a system that is integrated with your other business systems such as your CRM, you can alert those subscribers about the outage or attenuation and reassure them that you are addressing the problem."

Network challenges

Moving forward, Ceronie said that network owners and operators faced a host of challenges. They include: rapidly building out fibre networks; capacity management planning; ageing infrastructure; talent shortages; and growing concerns over data privacy and security, he said.

With interest rates steadily rising over the last two years, Ceronie said that it was now more expensive and harder for altnets and broadband providers to attract the additional investment required to roll out the technology. As a result, he added that it was vital to ensure the network inventory was properly documented to ensure an accurate valuation and, therefore, making it a more attractive proposition for investors.

While the networks have already been rolled out in many urban areas, Ceronie said that there now needed to be greater focus on rural locations. He added that in the areas where capacity was already in place, providers must also look to drive subscriber take-up.

Another issue is the lack of contractors required to carry out the work, said Ceronie. That has pushed up the cost of rolling out the technology, with one company he cited bringing in 200 engineers from overseas to do the work.

Additionally, Ceronie said that the old copper network infrastructure had become outdated as the influx of entrants to the market and the high quality of service they can deliver has increased. Accelerating this, he said, was the adoption of a hybrid approach, where providers have been using a combination of poles, ducting and trenching, either through their own network’s capacity or their incumbent's.

"Issues of data privacy and security are always a concern in the environment that we operate in and they are becoming more common every day," said Ceronie. "So while we have to be wary of them, they haven’t slowed down the rollout of full fibre in any significant way."

In terms of opportunities, Ceronie said network providers that solely service residential properties could look to move into the business or wholesale markets. But he warned that, particularly with wholesale, it was a big step up and new entrants need to be 100 per cent committed.

"There are some great opportunities for the Channel, particularly smaller ISPs and broadband providers, to help with the rollout of full fibre," said Ceronie. "Our enterprise class solutions, for one, will only be driven through channel players."

VertiGIS works with channel partners in the UK including 1Spatial and Fifth Quadrant.

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