Using Location Technology to Manage Fibre Optic Infrastructure

Using Location Technology to Manage Fibre Optic Infrastructure

The Challenge:
– Optimization of the Optical Fibre Network life cycle.
– Cost reduction in the Optical Fibre Network implementation environment.
The Solution:
– DFA uses the ArcGIS platform to reduce cost and time in the implementation of the Optical Fibre Network.
– Reduced mean Time to Repair (MTTR) using maps and apps.
– Expand their existing network using cutting edge spatial analytics techniques.

South African fibre optic infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), began using geographic information systems (GIS) in its operations right from its earliest
days back in 2007. Initially, the company focused on constructing a fibre infrastructure network which it intended leasing out to mobile operators and linking data centres by providing dark fibre. As new internet service providers and electronic communication network providers entered the South African market, DFA extended its infrastructure and
dark fibre products to these newcomers enabling them to build their own networks without having to put up expensive capital and infrastructure investments.
This expansion into providing infrastructure and products to both the fibre-to-thebusiness (FTTB) and fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) segments has seen the DFA’s fibre network reach an asset value exceeding R10-billion in 2018.

The objective
The DFA’s fibre optic network consists of over 10 000 km of duct distance, and its costs between R700 and R800 per metre to deploy the cable. Managing this deployment cost is a key objective as is managing the splicing and maintenance teams which ensure reliable connectivity for their customers.

How location technology makes this possible
The DFA uses a geographic information system (GIS) platform provided by Esri South Africa to visualise and locate their operations. The location data platform, which is a single portal for all the DFA’s spatial data, assists management in identifying ways to maximise efficiencies and lower the cost of fibre network deployment and maintenance. Mobile applications are designed to achieve deployment and connectivity goals and are used by field teams across South Africa under the guidance of the National Monitoring Centre (NOC). The end-result is enhanced productivity and efficiency across the organisation.

The location technology
Esri South Africa provides mapping and analytics software and services which facilitate strategic operating solutions. Since 2013 this work has migrated from ArcGIS Desktop into a fully operational ArcGIS Enterprise environment including real-time processing with GeoEvent Server.

How DFA business units use location technology
The Esri location data platform is a critical system for DFA’s order orchestration system which handles everythingfrom order placement to billing. The mapping platform is initially used to identify the location of the order, fromthere the order moves through various divisions such as property management and planning in order to establish
feasibility and cost-effective build, and then on to billing and customer services. The various business units at DFA make use of the location data platform during this workflow process either by accessing the mapping platform directly or through web and mobile apps. These apps are designed and adapted according to the requirements of the particular business unit.
– The location data platform is used by the property management division within DFA to manage wayleaves, to communicate with landlords and to liaise with contractors. A web app linked to the South African cadastre enables personnel to input coordinates to identify erf numbers which are then checked against deeds information to obtain landlord information. Another web app enables staff to capture incoming and outgoing wayleaves data facilitating workflow management and flagging potential problems.
– Mobile maps are used by the maintenance and splicer teams as well as contractors to easily find access points, duct banks, and fibre cables. This eliminates the need for team members to come into the office every day, saving time and money. Splicer teams use a mobile app linked to the location platform to match fibres and maintenance teams use it to handle call-outs and to report breakages.
– Real-time mapping and analytics enable DFA to track company vehicles and check that field workers are where they are supposed to be. The time spent on each maintenance call-out is monitored to ensure that the shortest timelines are met in accordance with service level agreements relating to connectivity.
– Live feed provided via the location data platform to the DFA’s National Monitoring Centre (NOC) enables the remote monitoring of electronic access management locks on handholes across the fibre optic network. Ensuring that only DFA personnel can access the handholes, prevents tampering and theft of equipment.
– The mapping platform’s crime stats data layer allows crime hotspots to be identified which in turn facilitates better planning and improved cost management. Live video feed to the NOC and coordination with on-theground security teams helps to keep the field teams safe and prevents theft of their equipment.

Challenges and how they are addressed
One of the biggest challenges early on was getting people to understand the benefits and possibilities of using GIS. This was resolved by having the GIS team constantly interact, cooperate and collaborate with other business units in order to better understand their business requirements. Several apps were designed around these business needs and were marketed internally to ensure that they were being used. Once people realised that the apps were making their day-to-day work easier and quicker, they became increasingly open to advice on how to use GIS to make their systems faster and more efficient. Not surprisingly data management is an ongoing challenge. There are problems with integrating historic data, data capture and data management. The effectiveness of the location data portal is dependent on the input of accurate data and this requires ongoing education of employees. There is a major programme underway to educate DFA employees on data management and the importance of standardised data capture.
Speedy delivery is a constant and central challenge for DFA. It has been embedded into employees’ key performance indicators to make them motivated to push efficiencies. The location platform and its array of apps are assisting with this challenge by helping DFA employees to be innovative, to plan smarter and to make effective decisions.

Measureable success
Chief Information Officer Mmakgosi Mosupi says the Esri location data platform is central to DFA’s operations. Implementation of the mapping platform and its applications at DFA is making a difference by cutting costs, driving efficiencies and improving turnaround times. The location platform and its associated apps have helped DFA accelerate their delivery times, make more accurate costings and provide an improved service experience for their customers. It has also helped DFA management to be proactive about anticipating problems that could lead to an escalation in costs. At present the DFA is achieving its objective of keeping deployment costs as close to R700 per metre as possible
Fibre is a key component of a connected digital world, and DFA’s customers want the connectivity and services that will enable them to compete in this arena. Location technology from Esri South Africa is helping the DFA to address these constant demands for innovation, speedy delivery and cost efficiency.