Mike Grice – CTO, All Systems Broadband (www.go-asb.com)
Business Services continue to be an attractive source of revenue for service providers. In response to the demand for continually increasing bandwidth in service offerings, fiber is the logical choice. This article touches on some of the most common challenges, as well as some questions to ask when seeking solutions, in creating appropriate fiber architectures.
Fiber Management – There is a myriad of business environments that service providers must deal with – from small “mom and pop” stores located in a strip mall, to large multinational corporations occupying many floors of a downtown high-rise. In reality, every business customer in the country is unique from all the others. It therefore becomes the service provider’s challenge to create a “toolkit” of solutions that, through mixing and matching, may be customized to the particular needs of each customer.
In creating its solution set, a service provider will want to have a set of core products that can be fit together in varying ways in order to meet the needs of a large cross-section of its potential business customers. When choosing products to help meet its commercial services needs, service providers should consider the following:
- Is the product “intuitive” for a craftsperson to install and use?
- Are the various pieces built to industry standards, thus allowing them to fit together as part of an overall solution?
- When installed, do the products provide a simple methodology to upgrade services as required to grow the account?
Intuitive Products – In most cases, there is a minimal level of training that accompanies the installation and efficient use of a new product. The goal, of course, is to have solutions that may be learned in a matter of minutes or a couple of hours, as opposed to days or even weeks. A solid design will allow craftpersons to quickly come up to speed on the proper install and use of the product and its features. For example, in the case of a fiber demarcation point inside a business location, can a single installer easily hang the enclosure in an appropriate spot? Once in place, does the enclosure offer the flexibility of multiple options for ingress and egress of fiber cables? Is the method of splicing and splice storage familiar and easy to navigate? All of these factors, and many more, will dictate how quickly and professionally fiber services may be provided to a new business customer.
Industry Standards - As mentioned earlier, the ability to mix and match various pieces of a solution allows the service provider to quickly respond to new business services opportunities. Use of industry standard dimensioning, such as the widely accepted LGX® measurements, assures that modular products may be used in combination to meet customer needs. Further, products that offer the capability to pick and choose from among various standard connectors and splicing arrangements assure that fiber re-arrangements and the addition of new equipment can be easily accomplished when needed.
Upgradeability - Everyone has heard the adage regarding the cost of gaining a new customer versus the cost of keeping one. Generally accepted numbers indicate that customer acquisition costs are five times as high as customer retention. In the highly competitive environment that network providers operate in, the ability to retard challenges by those seeking to steal business customers is critical to continued success. Therefore, products that are part of the service provider’s arsenal of solutions must offer the capability to modularly upgrade services with a minimum of infrastructure changes.
Questions to consider in this area include: Does the fiber splice enclosure / demarcation point allow for the snap-in addition of passives that will increase capacity or add wavelength-specific services? Does the enclosure provide for the storage of sufficient slack fiber as may be needed for relocations and/or additions? Is the enclosure as easy to re-enter as simply opening a door, or are there a multitude of clamps and parts to navigate through to make even the simplest change? Of course, these questions are only a subset of those to be considered when developing customer-retention strategies.
Business customers represent a real revenue opportunity for network service providers. By partnering with a vendor that focuses on the unique needs of providing fiber-based business services, the network operator can assure themselves of a quality deployment that will maximize corporate branding, exceed customer expectations, and result in a long-term relationship with their business services customers.
LGX® is a registered trademark of OFS FITEL, LLC