Good news everybody – order at COS has been restored and our all-around talent Spencer is back at the office!
After spending time away from us and doing something even more meaningful (being a full-time dad of three), Spencer has finally returned to the office and is ready to put his mind to and focus on how to connect the unconnected.
In order to write this piece, I’ve asked several colleagues what Spencer’s actual title is and what he’s especially good at. The answer won’t surprise those who know him but it seems from Sales to Customer Support and Business Development, he can do it all and he does it well! He might even be able to build the trenches to bury fiber conduits but I’m not sure….
So welcome back to the office Spencer!
How long have you been gone?
Spencer: About seven-eight months.
What’s your title?
Spencer: [Laughter] I’m not sure….*
What did you miss the most about working at COS?
Spencer: Warm coffee, the contact with our client’s and Ander’s jokes.
What are you especially looking forward to?
Spencer: Meeting new colleagues*, COFFEE!, playing padel, hearing about new customers and other COS updates.
*Like me, yey
You’ve been working at COS Systems for almost six years, what do you think we’re best at?
Spencer: We’re not only a great group of hard-working passionate colleagues but we also know how to have fun together when we are not working- Fika, Padel, some beers, etc.
I agree, thanks for taking the time to chat Spencer – now let’s get some coffee!
If you want to know more about Spencer or (re)connect with him to talk about your fiber projects and needs, don’t hesitate to reach out.
*Note: Since our interview, Spencer has been promoted to Head of Technical Sales Support, congratulations!
Norbert will join forces with our sales team and ensure that our customers are well taken care of and get their voices heard. Born and raised in France, he has been living in the US for 22 years and is today based in San Francisco, California. From there, he will further strengthen our presence in the US, making it even easier to provide that little extra for our North American customers. Aside from helping our customers to get to know our system as well as possible, he will make sure their feedback is used to make our products even better.
Norbert added a creative touch to his background in engineering and on top of his master’s degrees in Telecom and Business Unit Management, studying Liberal Arts in Madrid. He has worldwide experience in the telecom and IT industries, working for global equipment suppliers and operators in large corporations and start-ups. He has worked in consulting, sales and operations, and managed relationships with government representatives, enterprises, and strategic partners.
To name just a few more of his former positions, he has worked as Services Director for Huawei in France, and before that, held a position as Business Development Manager for Interwave, a Silicon Valley start-up selling wireless solutions in Latin America and Asia.
Before joining our team, Norbert has been working as a Consulting Director/Account Manager, covering the US and Canada, for a software company that develops web-based work management software.
Aside from Norbert’s professional background, San Francisco bay is his playground and he has already invited the team on a trip on his new sailing boat. Other than that, he is a fan of the golden state warriors who just won the 2022 NBA Championship!
“Norbert has a unique combination of an international telecom background and being one of few in the USA with extensive Open Access Network operations experience. As we now see a wave of new Open Access operators starting up in North America, and choosing our platform for their operations, there is no doubt Norbert will be of great value for our growing team and customer base,” says Isak Finér, COS Systems CRO.
Click here to connect with Norbert
Open Access models have been garnering more attention in Canada due to public funding requirements and as a part of Public Private Partnership (P3)-based municipal investments.
Isak Finér, COS Systems Chief Revenue Officer, will be speaking at Monday’s panel, 1:00-1:55 PM EST.
This panel will provide context and clarity to the definitions around Open Access, will discuss business and operating models, opportunities for service innovation and explore lessons learned from active Open Access network providers.
Canada’s Rural & Remote Broadband Conference is hosting their Winter Event on Monday, December 13th.
Now is the time for communities to invest in broadband infrastructure to improve citizens’ quality of life and promote economic prosperity. When opportunities arise, will your organization be ready? States, municipalities, community organizations, Tribal governments, and community groups must strategize NOW if they intend to get their proposed projects “shovel-ready” for deep, detailed applications and, ultimately, funding.
That’s why NoaNet is hosting these upcoming FREE “Road to Broadband” virtual workshops for communities on Nov. 30 and Dec. 16. There will be practical conversations to learn from communities and organizations that have been there.
Do like COS Systems! Join NoaNet for Broadband 101 if you want to grasp the basics- or stick with the workshop for both afternoons to get a solid understanding of the considerations of taking on a community telecommunications project in this step-by-step virtual workshop.
Speakers will include:
• PUDs, Cities, and Ports providing Broadband Solutions,
• Broadband Strategists,
• Grant Writers,
• The Washington State Broadband Office,
• The Community Economic Revitalization Board,
• Telecom Network Engineers,
• Technology Vendors,
• and more!
A small budget, long distances and low population density surely does not sound like the best prerequisites for a fiber network buildout. By working in a structured, but still creative way and with a good dialogue with the local community it is still feasible. It has been proven over the last six years since Kitsap PUD started to work with COS to build demand for and operate their Open Access fiber network.
To understand how this success story began, we must jump back all the way to 2003. As members of NoaNet (Northwest Open Access Network), another customer of COS, Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) got access to the fiber backbone that was built throughout the rural parts of Washington State. In 2003 KPUD started building a middle mile network, branching off from the NoaNet fiber ring and connected their first community anchor tenants; schools, libraries, navy facilities, but also a number of businesses. Being a water utility and not having the big budgets as some of the electric utilities in Washington State have, it was a slow but steady buildout that generated a small, but positive cash flow. An excellent starting point for any community wishing to initiate a fiber project as not only costs can be lowered to the anchor institutes, but that the revenue from those fiber connections will also stay local.
Over the coming years, the incumbent telecom companies didn’t improve their presence in the county much and not only businesses, but also residents started to ask if KPUD could expand their fiber network to reach them, as some other PUD’s in the state had done. KPUD decided to find a way to determine if there was a big interest for this and that is when they started working with COS Service Zones. Within just a few days from launching the site, the response was overwhelming with over 2000 completed surveys. The lack of high speed and quality broadband in the county was clear.
KPUD is running their network on an Open Access model and is operating it using COS Business Engine. This means they are not themselves providing the retail services but invite private sector providers to do so. Already from the start several Service providers saw the benefit of being able to reach new customers without any investments in infrastructure, even though the numbers were initially small.
So, without a big budget how were they able to expand their networks in these rural areas? The secret recipe is called LUD:s (Local Utility Districts). While the middle mile network is expanded by a mix of cash flow revenue, tax dollars and grants, the last mile connections to the homes are paid by the homeowners, but it is not a one-by-one thing. Instead, in neighborhoods or areas where KPUD has identified a high demand with COS Service Zones the total cost for the buildout is calculated and the cost per household is determined. Residents will decide if they want to participate or not and high participation obviously leads to a lower cost. Residents have the option to pay upfront, but many choose to spread the cost out over time through one of the partnerships KPUD has established with local banks that will allow a long term loan with a fixed interest rate and a lean on the property. Even if these costs can in some less densely populated areas be quite substantial, people are willing to sign up knowing it will not only provide a better internet service, but also increase their property value. Just recently the very last homeowner who didn’t opt-in initially in one of the first LUD’s decided to connect – effectively a 100% take-rate in that neighborhood, even though the last mile connection has to be paid by the homeowner. Another rural COS Open Access customer, neighboring Mason PUD3, is also using a model where customers can pay off their installation over time with a $25 monthly construction adder to the cost of their service for 12 years.
Angela Bennink, Telecom Director at KPUD, explains that the Open Access model is a big proponent of the network and the choice it offers make people more willing to sign up and connect. Subscribers know that the competition between multiple providers will ensure a good quality of service and reasonable prices. And switching between providers is made extremely easy by the self-service broadband Marketplace provided with the COS Business Engine operations platform.
“Our biggest challenge now is keeping up with demand,” says Bennink.
Especially during this Covid-19 pandemic the need for broadband has been extreme. The proximity to Seattle, across the water also makes the population grow at a rapid pace. 100 000 new residents are expected in the coming three years and KPUD is working with developers to make sure they put in conduit for fibers as they build.
“We have slowly and steadily grown and we will add close to 500 new customers this year and as many next year. We have found a model that really works with our prerequisites and the functionality to streamline the capture of interest and the operations of our Open Access network provided by COS System’s platforms has been a part of that success,” says Bennink.
“It’s been an absolute honor to have been part of KPUD’s journey from the first survey responses coming in, to the successful growth they are showing today. They have proved that with a strong localized strategy and perseverance rural fiber is possible,” says Isak Finer, Chief Revenue Manager at COS Systems.
Fiber network deployments can be separated into two distinct phases – Distribution network buildout and customer connections, often referred to as “drops”. COS Business Engine has always automated the activation of the ONT to validate and document the connection between the service location and the installed equipment to guarantee correct service provisioning. With the latest release of COS Business Engine we’ve launched a full workflow solution for managing and documenting customer connections.
Once you’ve got fiber built to the street, connecting a new customer to your network may sound to some like an easy task. “Just send the crew out and get it done!” Well, this is another one of those things in running a fiber network that are easier said than done. If you start to break down all the work of getting a customer installed into smaller tasks, you will quickly realize that it requires an almost overwhelming amount of planning, coordination, information sharing and documentation to avoid problems.
A typical workflow could look like this:
1. A customer has signed up and you’ve decided it’s time to connect their home.
2. Drop design. A fiber drop assignment must be made from the connection point in the street to the house. It requires information about where the fiber terminal is, what it looks like at the location, which building and where on that building the fiber should be connected, etc.
3. Staging the drop. As the fiber drop design is complete a person has to access that information to know what equipment has to be prepared for the installation crew as they go out to do the installation. What length of drop cable is to be used? Which type of ONT? What kind of enclosure?
4. Build the drop. A crew will take the prepared material and drive out to the home to connect and bury/hang the drop fiber cable from the fiber terminal in the street to the wall of the house to connect. It’s key that the correct material has been prepared and that fiber drop information is easily accessible.
5. Install the network interface unit. This is where the fiber drop cable terminates at the outer wall of the house.
6. Install the ONT/CPE. This is the final step, before the subscriber can go live with their service. The in-home installation crew will drill through the outer wall and pull a fiber through to the inside of the house and install the ONT where the customer has chosen to put it. It includes the activation and confirmation that the correct ONT is installed at the correct location. If this is not correct, service orders from one customer could be provisioned to the neighbor! Such errors can be incredibly time consuming to resolve since you may have to come into customers’ homes.
7. Configure the service and test the connection port is performing as expected.
All these tasks must be coordinated, and every person/crew involved must know for sure that the previous step was successfully completed. Imagine if a crew has an appointment to make the final installations in the customer’s home, then meeting up with the customer who has stayed home from work excited to start using their new service, and then finding out the fiber drop to the house has not yet been completed. That’s a huge waste of time and that subscriber will in a matter of seconds go from excited to extremely disappointed. This might be the worst possible scenario, but lack of control in this rather complex process will be extremely costly.
It’s also extremely valuable to have good documentation of how the work has been performed. Not only to continuously verify that installation crews/subcontractors are doing quality work, but also for future support and maintenance.
This screenshot shows the installer’s view of the installation workflow. The customer and service location information is there and also the status of each and every task in the installation workflow.
With the new customer installation workflow in COS Business Engine we’ve solved all of these potential pitfalls. As soon as a new customer location is created, either manually or by an import, but most likely through the integration to our demand aggregation platform COS Service Zones, a complete installation work order is created. This work order includes a set of predefined tasks that can then be assigned to the appropriate installer responsible to execute it. Each person will have a user profile set up in COS Business Engine where they will be able to access all the relevant information about the task to be performed on their own device. An installer will have all their work orders and tasks listed on their overview page as they log into their installer view in COS Business Engine.
Any files, be it drawings, signed contracts or pictures taken in the field, will be available to not only the admin user, but also every installer with tasks to perform in that specific customer connection. With real-time access and updates there is no need to distribute papers and manually confirm work performed using phone or email.
This new functionality is part of the standard set of features delivered with the COS Business Engine and we’re excited to receive feedback from our existing and new customers as they start using it.
Finally, a special shout-out to the great team at WideOpen Networks in Virginia who are using our full product suit to manage everything from initial interest surveys, to pre-signups in fiberhoods with take-rate targets, taking deposits, managing the customer connection workflows described in this blog post, to the Marketplace where subscribers can manage their own service orders on their Open Access network and finally billing. Their vast experience provided invaluable feedback in our development of this new functionality.
We provide FTTH operators and network owners with software for automating and digitizing every aspect of their FTTH venture. From survey and demand aggregation, to sign up, deployment and billing – to help bridge the digital divide.