NEIL BESSANT CAN TECHNOLOGY FILL THE GAP?
it quicker for the user to handle the fibre. These sorts of advances are being seen on most components and technology engineers need for projects, as the tools they use get smarter and manufacturers’ research and development continues to advance. All this means installation is straightforward even for engineers new to the industry. These advances in technology reduce time on the ground - in turn helping to control costs on projects. For operators that need to carry out projects now - investing in technology is their quickest short-term gain.
Job ads online include skills like ‘must hold or have held an Openreach fibre accreditation’ or ‘have extensive experience of working on networks.’ Yet advances in the technology at engineers’ disposal simplify the installation process, increase productivity and reduce down-time - something which is welcomed by even the most experienced installers. In the industry there is a split between skilled workers who have experienced backgrounds working on networks, and those completing FTTH subscriber connections, who may have come from varied backgrounds with minimal training. The rise in FTTH is also driving demand for new installers handling subscriber connections. For many it is or will be their first experience of the telecoms industry. The latest fusion splicers for example have active fusion control technology and blade management technology which take away some of the key challenges on installations that previously engineers themselves would have had to be mindful of. At Fujikura we recently launched the 90S+ model which reduces overall working time for engineers and with its splice positioning system, makes
reliable internet. In the Queen’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament in May 2021, investment in gigabit broadband alongside 5G infrastructure was promised. It’s not the first time that gigabit internet has been mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, but this time you feel the government is really making connectivity a top priority. So, with such increased activity in the industry what can help ensure engineers can complete projects on time and in budget?
REMOVING THE SKILLS GAP
There are realistically only two ways for the operators and sub-contractors to address the skills needed for the pace of the major network projects being undertaken. Either hiring and training new network engineers - which can be a timely and very expensive process - or turning to technology to speed up time and reduce cost on projects. Of course, these two can work hand-in-hand. During the pandemic operators have been crying out for engineers. Openreach has created 5,300 new engineering jobs which will be filled in 2021 in both the company itself and within its supply-chain. While other smaller operators are looking to hire for network engineers or fibre splicers.
THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
There’s no question that over the next five years we are going to see continued growth for the sector. As with any growth it doesn’t come without its challenges. Supply of equipment and talent will be the industry’s biggest barriers to completing rollouts on time. By investing in people and technology - operators and contractors will be in the best position to meet future network demands as the market dynamic continues to shift with changes in internet usage and the rollouts of FTTH, 5G and gigabit broadband.
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ISSUE 24 | Q2 2021
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