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Openreach looks to cut fibre rollout cost with Exfo deal

Openreach has signed up testing and analytics firm Exfo to help with its roll out of full fibre networks in the UK.

In a statement published this week Exfo said it has won a contract to supply to supply optical test heads and test access switching to the UK telco. Essentially, the deal should enable Openreach to install fibre correctly and remotely monitor it once it is in the ground, which amounts to a significant cost-saving exercise, given the cost of fixing problems after the fact.

Indeed, Exfo notes that additional truck rolls can more than double telcos’ testing costs, although it did not disclose how significant a portion of the overall fibre rollout cost it makes up.

That said, telcos are facing ever-increasing competitive and governmental pressures to roll out fibre more quickly and cost-effectively, and getting it right first time helps on both counts.

“Openreach is an early mover in adopting permanent fibre monitoring technology, which will eventually cover all households in the UK,” said Wim te Niet, Vice President, Sales – EMEA, Exfo. “We see a similar wave in other key European markets like Germany. I believe network operators across Europe will soon follow Openreach’s lead to ensure first-time-right installations, reduce turn-up failures, and substantially reduce truck rolls for service calls,” he added.

Openreach had built out full fibre to 2.6 million premises as of March 2020 and aims to reach 4.5 million premises by the end of March this year, as part of its longer-term goal of hitting 20 million by the mid-to-late 2020s.

It is currently building out fibre to 40,000 homes and businesses per week, which should enable it to reach this year’s target. It is difficult to assess progress towards the 20 million goal, given the vague nature of the target date, but 40,000 locations per week equates to just over 2 million per year, so at the current rate we’re looking at the best part of a decade to reach the 20 million mark.

Openreach might need to speed things up. And testing and monitoring solutions will help it to do that. It’s not just about speed of rollout though. Exfo is also keen to highlight the importance of its ongoing monitoring capabilities.

“As for markets with high FTTH/B penetration rates, telecom operators are finding they need sophisticated automated monitoring tools to ensure superior customer experience,” said Wim te Niet.

Customer experience has long been a hot button for telcos; the vast majority take great pains to talk up their customer service prowess, while anecdotal evidence suggests they do not always get it right. Whatever a telco’s track record in customer satisfaction, the fact remains that dealing with dissatisfied customers costs money, so we can expect them to continue to take measures to mitigate that…and to remain vocal on their customer care credentials.

“This year, our build has been gathering pace and momentum, and we’re determined to match that rapid speed of deployment with the highest standards of build quality…and customer service,” said Peter Bell, Director, Network Technology, Openreach.

Much like that.

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