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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.

 

Deployment portalThis 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.