Broadband Breakfast will host a live online event at 12 noon this coming Wednesday, June 3rd, with the title “Last-Mile Digital Infrastructure”. Experts, including COS Systems CMO & VP North America Isak Finer and UTOPIA CEO Roger Timmerman, will discuss the Open Access model as an ownership and operations model.

Visit Broadband breakfast’s website to learn more and find instructions on how to join the online event. You will also find a link to the recent article where COS was featured as leaders in bringing True Open Access networks to USA. COS Systems Brings Swedish Knack for Tech to Open Access Networks, Hopes for Spacious Skies on American Plains.

The June 3rd online event serves as a preview to the pre-conference hosted by Broadband Breakfast at the Broadband Communities Summit in Houston, Texas, on August 10-13.

In the latest version of COS Service Zones, that was released just days ago, our most exciting new feature is the integrated speed test. Perhaps you need to prove to investors or decision makers that the need for better broadband is there or strengthen your grant application with actual speed test results showing that people are not getting sufficient speeds?

All of us working hard to bring fiber broadband to more people can probably agree that the FCC definition of Broadband being at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds, was outdated even when it was launched in 2015. In these days of Covid-19, when so many people around the globe are working and studying from home, there are probably few who would agree that a 25/3 Mbps connection is sufficient for video conferencing, online studies, streaming, etc. All in all – speed matters, which is at the core of our latest release of COS Service Zones. Read more about COS Service Zones 4.1 here!

With this recent release we now offer our COS Service Zones customers to have a dedicated cloud hosted speed test. By testing towards a neutral cloud server, it will resemble what speeds the subscriber will actually see while using their internet connection on a daily basis. Some speed tests will test against your provider’s server which will show an idealized result, which is not the case with this test.

Obviously, the test is allowing the subscribers to see what kind of speeds they are currently getting and commenting their result, but we have of course packaged this data nicely with all the other data we gather with COS Service Zones. By having the speed test results tied to the address, coordinates and the subscriber’s survey response, many interesting questions can be answered. What is the correlation between what they are paying for and what speeds they are actually getting? Are people on different competitive providers showing different speed test results? Are there any high download or upload speeds available out there today? And of course, when running an actual test, how many are reaching speeds of 25/3 Mbps? Reliable speed test data can be crucial when applying for grants or explaining to key stakeholders why it is important to take the decision to invest in better broadband.

We hope and believe that by adding speed test results to the proven demand aggregated neighborhood by neighborhood, our customers can easier secure funding and prove the need for better broadband to decision makers – making more fiber projects move forward faster

Don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a demo of COS Service Zones at sales@cossystems.com

The latest version of COS Service Zones offers a long list of big and small improvements based on all the great feedback we have received from our customers. New user roles, a new super-fast process to convert a survey response to a signup, Google tracking and more.

COS Service Zones is a Demand Aggregation platform used to survey your potential customers to find out if there is enough interest for your services to justify a network investment. It also allows you to sign them up prior to construction using a “Fiberhood” approach. When enough people have signed up in a neighborhood you know that you can start construction with confidence as people are committed to buying services. A big part of this approach is to efficiently market it, preferably with different marketing channels, but for sure using online advertising and social media. We have added support for Google’s Global site tag tracking to support you in measuring the success of your marketing efforts.

We have also added two new user roles; One that only has read-only access to a limited number of areas within the product. This role is perfect for those who are logging in to track project progress, but not to edit any information. The other new user role is a support role, with mainly read-only access, but edit rights on customers and orders. With more available roles we expect more users to get access and have added two-factor authentication at login for extra security.

Years ago, we implemented a google maps integration for the address search functionality after evaluating a few different options. Now we have also transitioned over to their maps in the admin interface, which is a great improvement. Google maps both works and looks good.

What other news are in this release? Well, we’ve done a ton of small improvements based on our customers’ feedback, such as a super-fast way to convert a survey response into a signup, allowing an address search on a separate website to be sent to the COS Service Zones site, and much more.

To see it all, contact us to schedule a demo of COS Service Zones at sales@cossystems.com

Jessica

We are happy to Welcome Jessica Thorfve to COS Systems. Jessica will be working as a Key Account Manager supporting our growing customer base. We’re all extremely excited to have Jessica joining us – you can’t find many people with the experience and expertise within Open Access that she brings.

Jessica last comes from one of Sweden’s largest Service Providers, A3, which is the brand under which the merged Service Providers Alltele and T3 now operates. When Jessica started at T3 in 2011, it was still a relatively small player, with under 20 000 broadband customers. During the coming five years until the acquisition by Alltele, the company had an incredible growth. During this time Jessica, who started her “while figuring out what to do next” job as a customer support rep, quickly advanced to team manager for customer support, to marketing, managing the content on the company’s web, and other related tasks.

In 2016 she became manager for the residential side of the business and in charge of the commercial relationships with the operators of the 100+ open access community networks T3 was delivering services on. After the merger of T3 and Alltele she got an even larger responsibility as manager for the entire community network broadband business unit, now adding up to almost 200 000 subscribers on close to 160 networks.

While our COS Business Engine customers are the owners and operators of the open access networks, some of the most frequent users are often the service providers. They are themselves publishing their services on the Marketplaces, creating and launching promotional campaigns, etc. The expertise Jessica is bringing about the Service Providers’ role in the Open Access business model will be extremely valuable. We are also sure, not only us, but especially our customers who Jessica will be working with on a daily basis will very much appreciate her positive attitude and consistent drive to make things work even better.

 

Our world is at this moment struggling with the health issues and the rapid economic downturn following the Covid-19 pandemic. While measures taken by governments differ somewhat between countries, one thing is clear. As people are trying to care for themselves and others by social distancing this means more time is spent at home. Especially in countries where authorities have ordered their residents to stay at home, there is no choice but to work and study using online tools. Never in history has the need for reliable internet connections been more evident.

Overnight, what we at COS together with our partners in the industry have been trying to explain has become gravely obvious; High capacity Internet is not a luxury to be used by the privileged for pleasure – it’s critical infrastructure as important as road, electricity and water systems. Never has the divide between the haves and have nots been larger.

As a provider of software to the broadband industry, with systems used to manage the daily operations of the networks we are relying so heavily on now, we find ourselves being part of the solution people turn to. We want to ensure our customers that we are committed to continue our work as usual during this crisis. We follow the guidelines set forth by the authorities and while working from home we will still deliver the same high level of customer support as always. While we aren’t doing physical meetings and minimize travels at this time, all functions of the company are fully operational. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, concerns or interest in our products.

For general inquieries: sales@cossystems.com
For product support: support@cossystems.com
 
 

Private providers just aren’t building fiber at a fast-enough pace today in the USA. Local leaders in an increasing number of communities are looking into options for how to save their residents from being left in the dark when our way of life and economy is moving online. This is especially true in rural areas where the private providers show no interest in investing since the return on investment isn’t good enough with low subscriber density and numbers. In other parts of the world publicly built fiber infrastructure is often operated with an Open Access Model and it is winning ground in the USA as well. But there is quite a lot of confusion about what the term means, so here is a walkthrough of the most common models with pros and cons of each. A hint to you who is reading this – read to the end, we save the best to last.

Introduction to Open Access

In short the Open Access model builds on the concept of layers.

  • The first layer is the Infrastructure layer, which is the conduit and physical cables that make up the network. It is also called the Passive
  • The second layer is the Operations layer, which is lighting up the physical network with electronics and making it all work. It is also called the Active
  • The third layer is the Services layer, which simply consists of all the services delivered over the network. People tend to think of the traditional Internet, Phone (VOIP) and TV (IPTV) services, but we see an increase in other services like telehealth, home security, IoT and other Smart services.

The idea is to separate these layers, so that one entity can own and maintain the Infrastructure layer and then lease it out for others to deliver services. Much like an airport works. One entity builds the airport and all the airlines pay when they use it. Imagine how ridiculous and expensive flying would be if every airline had to build their own airports! That is how telecommunications generally work today.

What people have questions about is generally the operations layer. What does it really mean? Well, let’s compare all the data flowing into and out of the network to water. If it was important to get the right stream of water to a specific house all the way from the water tower, the only practical way would be to build a separate pipe all the way to that house. That is basically what happens in the operations layer. Using controller software, you create a tunnel through the network to every single end user, in which the service is delivered. This is what every service provider does when they start up a new service, but in the scenario with a single provider they typically make no significant difference between the operations and the services layer. That separation is important when multiple service providers can have their own tunnels and you need to keep track of who has which tunnel set up.

With that introduction given it is time to start listing some of the most common Open Access models used today. Please note that there is no standardized vocabulary, which is the reason why this blog post is written in the first place! You might find other names for these models. Also, this has the outlook of a municipality building a publicly owned fiber infrastructure. The assumption is also that it’s a positive thing to give consumers multiple choices for services and providers. Private service providers are in this business to make money, which can obviously make them have a different opinion on some of this.

Dark fiber Open Access

In networks you talk about backbone, middle mile and last mile. If comparing to a road system the backbone would be the highways, connecting cities to each other. The middle mile would be all the small streets within the city, and the last mile, or the “drop”, are the driveways at peoples’ houses. Without a backbone your city would have no means of effectively reaching the rest of the world’s network and without the middle mile the houses would have nothing to connect to. In the Dark fiber model, the community is only providing the passive infrastructure layer and they allow private providers to lease access to it and use it as they wish.

Dark fiber backbone Open Access

In this model the community would pay for the highway into the city, ensuring there is capacity enough for private service providers to sell high quality services.

Pros

  • The minimum investment needed to likely improve broadband quality
  • No need for knowledge in network operations
  • No need to invest in electronics
  • Might reduce the cost enough for private providers to start investing in the community

Cons

  • There is no guarantee a provider will build out
  • If a provider builds, they will likely only build where the business case is the best and leave some residents without
  • Since the final connection to the end customers will be built by private providers, the community will have to reach agreements for using their infrastructure in order to deliver community services (smart services), which will also not reach all residents (see above).
  • Customers will in reality have no choice. The investment done by the first provider in middle mile and last mile is too much of a barrier for a new provider to come in. Overbuilding is very uncommon in fiber. The common monopolistic problems of high price and sometimes low quality are likely.

Dark fiber middle mile Open Access

The community would also build the fiber in the streets and then allow private providers to bring the electronics to light up services and build the drops to the houses.

Pros

  • With almost all of the investment done , it’s very likely private providers will start investing in the community
  • If all streets have fiber, even the weaker areas of town could be connected
  • No need for knowledge in network operations
  • No need to invest in electronics

Cons

  • The provider will likely only build to residents with stronger economy since they have profit targets to reach and don’t want customers who might be bad payers.
  • Since the final connection to the end customers will be built by private providers, the community will have to reach agreements for using their infrastructure in order to deliver community services (smart services), which will also not reach all residents (see above).
  • Customers will in reality have no choice. The investment done by the first provider in last mile is too much of a barrier for a new provider to come in. Overbuilding is very uncommon in fiber. The common monopolistic problems of high price and sometimes low quality are likely.

Dark fiber last mile Open Access

In this model the community builds all of the fiber, but they lease it to a private provider/s who would install the electronics, operate the network and sell services.

Pros

  • With all of the investment in fiber done , private providers will definitely start lighting up customers
  • If all properties have a fiber connection, even the weaker areas of town could be connected
  • No need for knowledge in network operations
  • No need to invest in electronics

Cons

  • The provider will likely only invest in and install equipment to residents with stronger economy since they have profit targets to reach and don’t want customers who might be bad payers.
  • Even though the final connection to the end customers is owned by the city, the community will still have to reach agreements for using that infrastructure in order to deliver community services (smart services), as private providers own the electronics and thereby control the network.
  • Customers will in reality have reduced choice. The investment done by the first provider in electronics to serve a specific area and investment in electronics at the customers home, will be prohibitive for a new provider to come in. The common monopolistic problems of high price and sometimes low quality are likely to still exist.
  • In order to enable multiple providers to coexist, you need multiple fibers and also enough space in huts, handholes, and such to house multiple providers electronics.
  • The total cost will be higher since electronics will not be utilized to a maximum (two providers in the same area might have their own switches, which are both not used to a maximum.

Lit Open Access – Single provider

In this model the community would build the entire fiber network and also invest in the electronics all the way to the ONT in the customers’ homes and also build up operations capacity (an alternative is to lease the network or hire a neutral operations company to light and operate the network). Service providers are invited to resell services that are offered to them by the operator on wholesale terms which are equal to all providers. The service providers would still own and bill their customers. In this model the customer can freely choose between providers, but only have one provider at a time.

Pros

  • With all of the investment in fiber and electronics done, there is a very small hurdle for providers to start selling services on the network. Selling services goes from CAPEX intensive to an OPEX game.  
  • If the ONT is installed by the community network, the investment for providers is almost none and even the weaker areas of town could be serviced by private providers.
  • The common monopolistic problems of high prices and low quality of service will be reduced since customers can change providers if unhappy.
  • The assortment of services with multiple providers will probably be larger.
  • Lower prices, higher quality and bigger assortment will improve take-rates and both revenue and other benefits of a higher utilization will increase
  • The city now owns the entire network and can freely roll-out smart city services and decide which providers of other IoT and smart city services are welcome to deliver services on the network.
  • Investments in electronics is kept to a minimum, since new hardware will only be installed when needed. (never two half full switches from two different providers in the same rack.)

Cons

  • This is the largest investment a community could do (an option would be to invite a neutral operations partner who could bring the electronics and/or operate the network).
  • If doing their own operations, the city would have to build an operations organization.
  • Customers will have choice of providers, but not full freedom to choose what they like from multiple providers at the same time, which reduces the value of the network greatly since not all providers will be fit to deliver the services of the future.

True Open Access (Lit Open Access – Multiple providers)

The difference between the previous model and the True Open Access model is that the customer can freely choose between not only providers, but even on a service by service level. They have the freedom to build exactly the bundle of services from any number of providers that suits them best. This means maximum power to the consumer, an open and level playfield for any kind of provider and no restrictions for introduction of future services.

Pros

  • With all of the investment in fiber and electronics done, there is a very small hurdle for providers to start selling services on the network.
  • With the ONT being installed by the community network, the investment for providers is almost none and even the weaker areas of town could be services by private providers.
  • The common monopolistic problems of high prices and low quality of service will be reduced since customers have full choice of providers and services.
  • The assortment of services with multiple providers will be larger and providers who aren’t selling the traditional internet service can also come on the network since customers can buy services from multiple providers at the same time.
  • Lower prices, higher quality and bigger assortment will improve take-rates, and both revenue and other benefits of a higher utilization will increase
  • The city now owns the entire network and can freely roll-out smart city services and decide which providers of other IoT and smart city services are welcome to deliver services on the network.
  • Investments in electronics is kept to a minimum, since new hardware will only be installed when needed. (never two half full switches from two different providers in the same rack.)

Cons

  • This is the largest investment a community could do (an option would be to invite a neutral operations partner who could bring the electronics and/or operate the network).
  • If doing their own operations, the city would have to build an operations organization.

The True Open Access model is obviously the most complex to operate, but also the one that has no built-in restrictions. With this model you as a community are in full control of your digital future. What you need is a software platform that was built ground-up to support this business model.

COS Business Engine is the platform we launched in 2008 to automate the operations of True Open Access Networks. It is today used to Operate around 150 True Open Access Networks Worldwide, big and small.

For additional information contact:

Isak Finér
CMO & VP North America
COS Systems
+1 (540) 988-3224
isak.finer@cossystems.com
www.cossystems.com

Umeå Energi har med en hög utbyggnadstakt kraftigt expanderat sitt stadsnät i Umeåregionen. Med ett allt större fibernät, fler aktiva kunder och ny teknik som introduceras så har Umeå Energi valt att förnya avtalet med COS Systems för deras fortsatta användande av COS Business Engine som operatörsplattform för driften av nätet.

Det kommunalägda energibolaget Umeå Energi var väldigt tidigt ute med fiber och utbyggnaden av stadsnätet Umenet påbörjades redan under 90-talet. På senare år har utbyggnadstakten varit fortsatt hög och även antalet kunder i sedan tidigare utbyggda områden som nu valt att ansluta sig har vuxit kraftigt i takt med att behovet av bredbands­uppkoppling av hög kvalitet blir en allt mer central del av svenskarnas vardag. Äldre tekniker för att leverera Internet blir allt mer utdaterade.

Umenet har sedan 2012 använt mjukvaran COS Business Engine. Systemet omfattar allt från kundportalen där kunderna kan välja tjänster från 15 olika leverantörer, till de administrativa och tekniska funktionerna som automatiserar allt från aktivering av bredbandstjänster och fakturering av leverantörerna.  

“Med den kundtillväxt vi sett de senaste åren och med introduktionen av nya tjänster i nätet och användningsområden för vår fiberinfrastruktur var det läge att omarbeta vårt avtal med COS Systems. Med detta uppdaterade avtal på plats är vi redo för fortsatt framtida tillväxt med stöd av COS och deras effektiva driftsplattform,” säger Mats Berggren, VD på Umeå Energi Umenet.

Bland mycket annat så arbetar Umeå Energi med ett mycket intressant projekt där Sveriges första 5G-nät utvecklas i samarbete med Ericsson, Telia, Umeå Universitet, Umeå Kommun, Umeå Science Park samt andra lokala aktörer. Ett ytterligare innovativt initiativ är Smart Start, vilken är en pilot på Smarta-hem- och IoT-tjänster (Internet of Things), som kan levereras över deras öppna stadsnät.

”Det uppdaterade avtalet med Umeå Energi är viktigt för oss. Vi ser det som bevis för att vårt system inte bara skapar förutsättningar för en snabb kundtillväxt, utan även är en effektiv plattform för framtida expansion. Umeå Energi är en innovativ och framtidsinriktad kund och vårt fortsatta samarbete kommer bidra till att våra produkter utvecklas för att än bättre möta de krav som framtidens tekniska lösningar ställer”, säger Peter Lidström, VD på COS Systems.

Om Umeå Energi

Umeå Energi är ett energibolag och en samhällsaktör som i nära samarbete med omvärlden utvecklar och levererar hållbara energi- och kommunikationslösningar. Vår vision är en enklare vardag för våra kunder och en hållbar framtid för regionen. Vi omsätter ca 1,4 miljarder kronor, har drygt 400 medarbetare och är både miljö- och arbetsmiljöcertifierade.

Om COS Systems

COS Systems är en globalt verksam leverantör av mjukvara för att planera, bygga ut och sköta driften av moderna bredbandsnät. COS Systems utgår från kundbehov och utvecklar innovativa mjukvarulösningar som effektiviserar den dagliga driften, bidrar till ökad försäljning och nöjdare kunder. COS Systems expanderar ständigt och har hittills sina kunder i Europa, Nord- och Sydamerika, Afrika och Asien. Läs mer om COS Systems på www.cossystems.com

För ytterligare information, kontakta:

Mats Berggren
VD, Umea Energi Umenet AB
070 – 518 71 28
Mats.berggren@umeaenergi.se
www.umeaenergi.se

Peter Lidström
VD, COS Systems AB
070 – 656 58 72
Peter.lidstrom@cossystems.com
www.cossystems.com

The Electric Utility Umea Energi has expanded their fiber network significantly during the last years. With a larger footprint and new technologies emerging they have chosen to renew their contract with COS Systems for their continuous use of COS Business Engine for efficient operations and automated service activations of their Open Access fiber network.  

[Umea, Sweden] Umea Energi is a municipally owned electric utility in the University town of Umea, Sweden. It first started building out the fiber optic network in the 90’s, but has increased the pace in their build-out in the last five years, while the take-rates have also improved greatly as consumers need for reliable high-speed data increases. Older technologies to connect to the internet are becoming obsolete.

The Utility has been using COS Business Engine as their BSS/OSS (Business and Operations Support System) since 2012. The system consists of everything from the online Marketplace where subscribers can choose services from 15 different service providers to the administrative backend system that automates everything from service activation to wholesale billing.

“With the growth we have seen in the last years and the new applications we are now introducing in our network we needed to rework our original agreement with COS. With this updated agreement in place we are ready for the future of our network with the support of COS Systems and their highly efficient operations platform,” says Mats Berggren, CEO of Umea Energi Umenet.

Umeå Energi is currently working on Sweden’s first 5G deployment in cooperation with Ericsson, Telia, Umea University and other municipal entities. They are also doing a pilot project called Smart Start, which is a platform for delivery of smart home services to residents.

“This updated agreement with Umea Energi is important for us at COS. We have proven that our system enables and supports network growth and that it will also be the platform to effectively operate Open Access Networks in the future. Umea Energi is an innovative and forward thinking customer and our ongoing cooperation will be valuable for the continuous development of our products,” says COS Systems CEO Peter Lidstrom.

About Umeå Energi

Umeå Energi is an energy company that in close cooperation with the world around us develops and provides sustainable solutions for energy and communication services. We strive to challenge through new thinking and to drive the sustainable development in the Umeå region. Our vision is to make everyday life simpler for our customers and to secure a sustainable future for the region. Our turnover is approximately SEK 1.4 billion, we have just over 400 employees and hold environmental as well as work environment certifications. umeaenergi.se

About COS Systems

COS SYSTEMS is a leading provider of software to plan, deploy and manage Open Access networks, using a powerful yet simple self-service interface. COS Systems takes customer needs and delivers innovative software solutions that streamline operations, accelerate revenue and deliver more satisfied subscribers. Learn more about COS Systems on www.cossystems.com.

For additional information contact:

Mats Berggren
CEO
Umea Energi Umenet AB
Mats.berggren@umeaenergi.se
www.umeaenergi.se

Isak Finer
CMO & VP North America
COS Systems
isak.finer@cossystems.com
www.cossystems.com

COS Systems is ramping up after summer and we are happy to have strengthened the team with two more rock stars.

Boris Ruiz started in our Product Development team in August. He is a Swedish-American born in Florida, moving in between Miami and Puerto Rico. From an early age he developed an interest in software, working on hobby projects in his free time such as apps, games, & websites. Being an adventurous person by nature and not afraid to try and learn new things, he recently decided to move to Sweden to see how life is like here. At COS we were lucky to snatch this amazing developer before any of the other IT companies in our city did. Boris is currently mainly working on improvements to our COS Service Zones product. With our focus on the US market it’s an obvious plus his native tongue is English, but we are worried he will soon forget it based on the speed at which he is picking up Swedish!

Simon Fransson has just done his first week on our QA team. Simon is from outside of Umeå but now has walking distance to our office – we’re all jealous. The last three years Simon spent at A3, which is one of Sweden’s largest service providers, active on more than 150 Open Access networks nationwide. Since most of these networks are operated using our COS Business Engine platform he already knows the ins and outs of it. It’s a great resource to have him on the team with the service provider perspective he brings when testing our products making sure they meet our ambitious quality standards. When Simon is not working or at the gym there’s a great chance he is gaming, something he’s been doing almost before he could walk. You do not want to meet this guy online in Counter Strike!

We’re excited to have them on our team and know they will both contribute greatly to our customers’ success.

Late 2013 we released the first version of our demand aggregation platform COS Service Zones. Our primary focus was to help those building out fiber in the US get enough customers signed up so that they could move forward with their projects with lower risk of failure. Since then our platform has been used in over 100 projects in the US alone. What have we learned so far? Well, a lot, and some of it we will share with you in this article.

COS System’s founders started building software for the fiber network operators in Sweden 20 years ago. At this time the saying “build it and they will come” was still the most common strategy (if you can call that a strategy?) behind fiber buildouts. The thinking was that a new technology, literally lightyears better than what was in place before (in Sweden primarily ADSL and traditional dial-up modems), would make customers switch over without hesitation. It soon proved though that it wasn’t that easy. Studies have shown that over time the fiber take-rates tend to reach over 70 percent, but this often took 10 years or more. Since large parts of Sweden, like the US, is rural, a more cautious method of building fiber was starting to be used. When approaching a new area you tried to get engaged with the residents through meetings, information and even door-to-door campaigns. You defined their neighborhood boundaries and explained that they needed to come together and show that enough of them were willing to sign up before the fiber build-out could start. It was generally done with pen and paper and with the help of grassroots in the neighborhoods who volunteered in rallying their neighbors. Often these grassroots were those running a home business and those with kids who made the phone line busy every night and the phone bill break the family budget. This method was very effective in avoiding the worst potholes where low take-rates would make the network builder loose money for years, but it was a demanding administrative task.  

In 2012, when COS Systems first started to look at what the fiber industry looked like in the US, we decided to build a platform to make this method digital and to the largest extent automated. We already had a BSS/OSS (Business and Operations Support System), but it was too early to sell that platform, because the networks had to be built first! The good thing was that we could use a lot of the experience we had from building that platform and a large portion of the core code.

We built the product around a couple of major concepts. First we needed a way to manage people’s expectations and the level of commitment asked for. The result was the two first phases a neighborhood zone could be in; Survey and Signup (Zones are now often referred to as “fiberhoods” – more on that later). In the Survey phase people are asked to take a non-committing survey asking questions about the performance of their current Internet connection and of course how likely they are to sign up to the new network potentially being built. If the take-rate target is reached in Survey phase, the zone can be moved to the next phase which is the Signup phase. This phase is suitable to use if you know you will be able to start building the network in the near future if the take-rate targets are met. The customers would agree to the terms of the connection to the network and later we also added functionality to gather deposits.

From our customers building fiber we’ve gotten to know that the most hectic phase is still the construction phase since the subscribers typically have a lot of questions at this stage. They want to know when the installation will happen, how it will affect their house, their lawn, etc. The zone phase Construction is therefore important in order to be proactive in spreading information to the subscribers in those zones. The last phase is Connected and in this phase you will direct the subscribers already connected to your Marketplace to sign up for services or sign up laggards who didn’t sign up before.

Still, the most important feature is probably the Champion functionality. This is a way to automate the identification, signup and management of the local grassroots. On the COS Service Zones platform there is an entire program relating to the Champions. They apply to become your champions on the website, you approve them manually after checking their willingness to really help out. All champions will get a referral code and can thereafter go out and recruit their neighbors to the network.

Late 2013, the first version of the software was ready for launch. Imagine our surprise when during developing the platform, Google Fiber had launched in it’s first city, Kansas City, using a methodology similar to ours but without the first Survey phase. What we called zones, they called Fiberhoods and we got a much easier way of communicating what our platform did! The methodology even got its own term; Demand Aggregation.

So, that was the background, now what about the learnings from over 100 demand aggregation projects so far in the US?

First, a big misconception has to be made clear. The methodology was not, unlike many beliefs, designed to help private providers cherry pick the richest and most profitable neighborhoods, to leave the rest of the city unserved. Where we come from the networks we work with are generally community owned Open Access Networks (You can read more about open access here). In this model the fiber infrastructure is treated as a city owned utility that is open for any provider to deliver services on. The goal is to build fiber to everyone, just as with electricity and water. But I believe I speak for any taxpayer in the world when I say that you would expect your politicians to use the taxes you pay in a responsible and effective way. By building the network first to where high take-rates ensures a positive return on the investment, the cash flow from good neighborhoods can eventually be used to cover cost for further expansion. This means that the neighborhood that potentially could benefit the most might not get it first, but at least they will get it. If just building in random order or only to unserved areas the money might not last long and large parts of the area remain unserved. Use the method to connect all and remember – the biggest benefit is not the revenue generated, but all the benefits access to high-speed internet will bring to the community.

It was hard to choose when it comes to concrete advise we want to share in this post when running a demand aggregation campaign. Please feel free to reach out if you want to discuss more.

  • Don’t make the zones too large. We have found that an ideal size is 50-100 homes. If the number of neighbors you need to convince into signing up is for example 200, it will feel like your effort won’t make a difference. If it says you need 20 more it will feel like it’s within reach and you will be more eager to go out and spread the word.
  • Kick the campaign off with a blast. Even though the platform builds upon word-of-mouth and neighbors talking to each other, you need to make people aware of the project and the COS Service Zones site as a start. If you already send bills to your community (ideal for utilities), include information about the fiber project. Talk to local news, both papers and radio and make them write about the project. Invite people to an information meeting. Those who show up will be the ones most eager to get fiber. Have them sign up at that meeting and convince them to be your champions. They will be your best sales people.
  • Use the community to spread information. In underserved and unserved areas it’s not sure people understand why they would need better internet and some education might be needed. By uploading both marketing and educational information on the COS Service Zones site, you make it available for download and print-out to anyone who wants to share it. This way it will reach more people and you will be able to control the messaging.
  • Use your first buildouts as marketing. We’ve found that in areas where there have not been many options for high speed Internet before, the experience of the first customers is a very good thing to market. Interview your first customers in their homes and let them share their story about how their new service works.
  • Communicate like a pro (or use a pro). Even if building fiber is an incredibly positive thing, there still might be those questioning the project. It might be your competitors who are threatened or just people who think money should be spent on something else than new technology (especially if it’s a municipally funded buildout). You must quickly respond in a professional way to any misconceptions being spread. If you don’t have this competency inhouse you could hire a communications firm to help you with this as well as with marketing.

What we have found over the years is that with the COS Service Zones platform, some smart marketing tactics and good communications, you can really use your entire community as your sales organization and quickly reach remarkable take-rates. In fact, if successful you will be doing much more than just demand aggregation – Perhaps it is time to update the industry term to Demand Generation?

For additional information contact:

Isak Finér
CMO & VP North America
COS Systems
+1 (540) 988-3224
isak.finer@cossystems.com
www.cossystems.com