Optical Connections Magazine Summer 2024


ARMING FIELD CREWS FOR SUCCESS The rural and urban connectivity divide has been an important topic of discussion for a number of years, and it shows no signs of waning in importance. As society becomes increasingly digitalised, we have seen more branches of banks closing down, fewer bricks and mortar shops, and the rise of remote and online working. This highlights the general shift to online services and the importance of high-performance broadband connectivity as an essential public utility, writes John Tarleton , UK Sales Director at IQGeo. BRIDGING THE RURAL CONNECTIVITY DIVIDE

G overnments globally to bring connectivity to reach parts of the country that have previously been underserved, while similar projects and programmes are operating in the US such as ReConnect and Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD). In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that 19.7 million Americans still lack access to fast enough broadband. At a global level, according to the International Telecomunnication Union (ITU), an estimated 2.9 billion people still lack access to the internet. This highlights the strong need to take action, and many operators have done, both to ensure that these communities aren’t left behind and to also benefit from a previously untapped market. However, servicing rural environments does not come without its own set of unique challenges. In addition to the physical challenge of reaching remote locations for deployment, and not knowing what teams will face during this, the long- term maintenance of the fibre network is a critical factor in delivering a high- quality ongoing service. are taking action. In the UK, Project Gigabit aims To ensure that efforts are successful and avoid pitfalls, operators must have a clear plan that carefully considers

the full lifecycle of their network. Given the geographical challenges of rural fibre networks, the quality and resourcefulness of the field engineering team can be the difference between success and failure. Operators need a holistic approach that considers their skillsets, their tools, and the strategy that underpins the business. THE ‘SWISS ARMY KNIFE’ FIELD WORKER Providing broadband access and reliable connectivity in remote areas is not easy. Many efforts involve navigating difficult and unknown terrain, and even after a successful initial deployment, conducting multiple field visits when there are no problems that need to be fixed can be very inefficient. Getting the right field worker, in the right place at the right time, to fix the exact problem they are trained to be able to resolve becomes considerably harder when operating in a thinly populated area. To ensure that they are set up for success, operators need to empower their teams and field crews - particularly in rural areas – to be multi-skilled, so they’re able to resolve any issue that might arise in the field. There is also the added pressure of getting it right the first time, as many operators can’t afford to make multiple field visits. Some of the most resilient rural network operators are building teams of hybrid workers

rather than vertically specialised. Field workers need to be provided with comprehensive training programmes from the start of their careers, involving upskilling across a broad set of areas. When there is continual cross-collaboration between veteran team members and people newer to the industry, there is a culture of knowledge sharing. This means that everyone collectively learns from each experience, old and new, and is better equipped to deal with any task. Central to this is also supporting team members with software that don’t require intensive training to understand and is easy-to-use from initial adoption. Mobile software will not be adopted if it is too complex. Easy-to-use software built for mobile workflows also encourages engagement so field engineers can question and explore the network data to effectively problem solve.


While building teams of multi-skilled workers is an important step, ensuring that they are set-up for success when they’re in the field is just as vital. In an urban environment, taking disconnected CAD drawings, spreadsheets, and other paper documents can be inefficient if a field worker aims to fix an issue and the information they have doesn’t help



| ISSUE 37 | Q2 2024

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