Broadband networks are increasingly important infrastructure for the digital economy and the intelligent era. Broadband network coverage and quality directly affect national and regional economic and innovation capabilities in the fields of industrial digitalization and automation, the Internet, remote education, telemedicine, big data, and artificial intelligence.
All-optical network deployments continue to accelerate worldwide due to the benefits of improved bandwidth and performance. However, fiber deployment involve complex engineering operations like trenching, burying cable, house-to-house access, and indoor installation — which all pose great challenges in areas with high labor costs. Power companies enjoy rich engineering resources, possess extensive deployment experience, and boast strong technical teams and tools, making them well-prepared to handle these challenges. Rapid optical network developments have precipitated a vast expansion of opportunities for the development of digital services from electric power companies.
Advantages to Electric Power Companies
Electric power companies are responsible for the construction of long-term national infrastructure; through the use of large numbers of poles, towers, and underground conduits. Power companies have begun to deploy electric cables and fibers simultaneously.
In keeping with the need for governments to plan infrastructure in a holistic manner to ensure network reliability and stability, broadband networks have become a necessity of day-to-day life, and network security and reliability have gained significance equal to that of water, electricity, and gas.
In densely populated areas, due to the short cycle for Return on Investment (ROI), fiber optic networks are being deployed by carriers.
In contrast, the deployment of universal service networks in remote areas requires a national-level investment. Electric power companies are responsible for providing electricity in these areas, and integrating fiber optic network and power infrastructure is an example of the unique strengths available to electric power companies.
Many electric power companies around the world have achieved positive financial results by deploying fiber optic networks and, either through joint ventures with telecommunications carriers or capitalized by themselves; examples include Open Fiber (Italy), SIRO (Ireland), Dawiyat (Saudi Arabia), Copel (Brazil), and Altibox (Northern Europe). These investments have helped power companies expand their service scope and increase their revenue.
A good example for success is the broadband operation by Altibox, where the construction of the fiber optic network was based on the development of a market in video services. Today, Altibox has achieved a comparatively greater proportion of broadband and video users than are served by traditional telecom carriers. Further evidence for the successful investment by an electric power company in fiber optic networks is the fact that Altibox collects more revenue from broadband services than from the delivery of electricity.
State-owned power companies help governments implement long-term plans to build market credibility. For example, Dawiyat’s all-optical network is being used to promote the Saudi government’s National Transformation Plan 2020 (NTP) and Vision 2030 initiatives. Dawiyat’s new all-optical network has helped transform Saudi Arabia into a profitable link between the digital worlds of the East and West.
Broadband network construction promotes intelligent development for power systems. Electric power systems require the digital transformation of generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, dispatching, and intelligent meter communication processes.
Cloud-Based Digital Platforms for Efficient Networks
Electric power companies leverage electric rights of way to deploy fiber optics quickly. For instance, SIRO deployed optical fibers in Ireland via underground power conduits and overhead poles to provide gigabit ultra-broadband access services and achieve Fiber-to-the-Building (FTTB) and Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) demarcation points.
SIRO has eliminated the need to rent equipment room space, improved deployment efficiency, and significantly shortened the deployment cycle by leveraging its electric power corridors by co-locating container-based equipment rooms to its existing power stations.
Beginning in 2015, SIRO’s all-optical network has been deployed in 25 towns across Ireland covering more than 120,000 users by the end of 2017— including providing wholesale-priced network access to multiple service providers such as Vodafone, Sky, Digiweb, and Carnsore Broadband.
All-optical networks are proven to create jobs, drive innovation, and promote rapid economic development for local communities.
Huawei provides electric power companies with cloud-based digital engineering platforms and tools that greatly improve the efficiency of fiber network planning, deployment, and service provisioning. Huawei has accumulated extensive delivery experience in the market for digital platforms — including the SmartCapex planning platform, Integrated Service Delivery Platform (ISDP), and Automatic Provisioning System@Intelligent Engine System (APS@IES) — which have all been widely adopted by telecommunications carriers.
• Resource Utilization and Planning
The Huawei SmartCapex analysis platform uses big data to help customers locate high-value subscriber activities to shorten ROI cycles.
The Huawei SmartCapex analysis platform uses big data to help customers locate high-value user populations to shorten ROI cycles. The SmartCapex platform makes full use of existing resources to automatically plan and design networks that give full play to the advantages of existing digital resources.
For example, an Indonesian carrier using SmartCapex has analyzed more than 10 indicators — number of households, household consumption, competition, house density, low-bandwidth user, Internet access behavior, wireless grid traffic, average user download rate, mobile user traffic, and video traffic usage of mobile users — across the four dimensions of space, consumption, behavior, and competition.
The company has made plans to service more than 100 four-and five-star communities, and nearly 300 one-, two-, or three-star communities with live network resources. SmartCapex compared live network resources with user demand by geographic area. In areas that were determined to be economically valuable but underserviced, plans were made to build up those areas. The results are an increase in the installation rate for users from 32 percent to 45 percent. The number of new users reached 117,000 in 2017, and the ROI period was shortened from 6.8 to 3.8 years.
SmartCapex has been successfully deployed in multiple countries and regions including the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and India.
• Engineering Delivery
The ISDP manages projects, implementation, and information assets. The ISDP makes project delivery efficient, simple, orderly, and visible with tools that include smartphones, drones, and remote videos.
• Standard: ISDPs refine processes and deliverables for delivery planning and standardization.
• Digital: Actions produce records for the status of projects, networks, and sites that are visible in real time to achieve digital management.
• Coordinated: Delivery and resource plans are collaboratively updated; schedules and simulations are performed automatically.
• Automatic: The ISDP simplifies processes and operations, including support for one-click implementation of multi-step operations like site surveys, quality inspections, and acceptance reports. The ISDP can perform remote site surveys with drones and video tools, and achieve automatic remote project acceptance with Optical Time-Domain Reflectometers (OTDRs).
• Mobile: The system can export progress reports in real time, allowing users to monitor issues and risks anytime and anywhere for efficient management.
For example, the ISDP implemented paperless project management and delivery in Costa Rica, which increased installation efficiency from 0.5 to 4 households per person day.
Currently, the ISDP has been incorporated into the delivery of Huawei’s global engineering projects.
• Service Provisioning
The APS@IES automatic service provisioning platform implements end-to-end service provisioning coverage for service orders, resource allocations, service activations, and charging feedback through cloud management. Each APS@IES has more than 500 data management rules and more than 200 resource models which can be adapted to 80 service scenarios.
The APS@IES can be deployed either locally or on public clouds, and supports multiple network types such as copper line, optical fiber, and wireless — and carriers can lease resources from the cloud platform without building their own Operational Support System (OSS) servers for maintenance, which reduces O&M investments.
The APS@IES has been deployed in more than 20 countries around the world and attracted more than 200 million users. The platform has improved efficiency by helping carriers reduce the time for service provisioning from 2 - 3 weeks to 1 - 2 days. The APS@IES will provide more service management functions in the future.
Huawei’s three major tools for optical networks
Coordinated Development (Optical Fibers and Electricity)
Fiber optics are well insulated from electromagnetic interference, power surges, and lightening strikes. Because fiber optics do not generate electromagnetic radiation, they pose no risk to other electronic devices, which makes them ideal when combined with electrical power systems. For example, Optical Ground Wires (OPGWs) are widely applied in China for power transmission systems higher than 35 kV. All Dielectric Self Supporting (ADSS) optical fibers or Optical Fiber Composite Low-Voltage Cables (OPLCs) can also be used to deploy optical fibers and power cables simultaneously without increasing engineering overhead.
With continuous technical development, optical fibers can transmit information on a larger scale. For instance, a 200G WDM system with 96 color-phase carriers supports up to 19.2 TB single-fiber transmission capacity.
Power systems generally require a limited capacity for the automation signals needed for machine-to-machine communications, which leaves additional bandwidth available for lease by private enterprises. More and more markets are placing great expectations on fiber optic networks due to their high reliability, low latency, and lack of congestion when using hard pipes.
FTTH solutions facilitate the collection and transmission of user meter data while delivering broadband services. The future is a smart world where everything is interconnected — where many (all) electronic devices in the household will be networked, including refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners, and lighting fixtures.
Big data collected by smart homes will continuously provide power companies with frequency of use information for each appliance in the home to improve power planning and help people switch from responding passively to predicting proactively. Additionally, the combination of big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enable intelligent energy production and allocation, making both more efficient and accurate.
The rapid development of fiber optic networks is allowing electric power companies to explore new services. Because of this, power companies should assume responsibility for constructing network infrastructure for providing universal broadband services in accordance with national broadband development plans.
Electric power companies need to restructure and adapt to broadband network construction and operations. Concerning the creation of all-optical networks and broadband operations, electric power companies must provide different advantages than telecom carriers.
The value of fiber optic networks should be fully explored and developed in a number of ways. For example, electric power companies may enhance the construction of infrastructure in order to achieve high security, reliability, and universal services. Or, power companies can lease idle wavelengths within the data transmission system, implement smart metering by leveraging home networks, and combine smart home big data and AI to achieve intelligent control for power generation and consumption planning.