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Pop Quiz: Does H2007, C1R121-5-3, F5, port 101 mean anything to you?  If you’re an Outside Plant and Design Manager, like Gene Scott at Wilson, NC’s Greenlight Community Broadband, then you know that these numbers are actual fiber records data that you use every day to maintain and design your fiber network.

In this article, Gene has taken the time to contribute his expertise to ETI’s growing resources database. Any engineer can tell you that GIS and Fiber Management Systems go hand-in-hand. Gene will explain how GIS can help demystify FMS and improve operational efficiency.

Take it away, Gene:

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At first glance, fiber records management can seem to be a complex and difficult subject.  When you consider hundreds or even thousands of miles of fiber cable and their associated strand records, tracking this amount of information can seem to be a monumental undertaking.  In order to simplify this topic to something that is both understandable and useable in the real world, you must start with by asking the basic questions that are critical to managing a fiber-optic network.  It is also helpful to conceptualize a fiber cable as a conduit, and realize the primary items of interest are the individual strands within the conduit.  Critical questions include:

•    Where does this strand originate and where does it terminate?
•    What path does the strand take to get from origin to destination?
•    What are the physical characteristics of the cable (conduit) at any given point along the route?
•    What is the generic disposition of any individual strand within the cable (conduit) at any given point along the route?

In order to be able to answer these questions you must start with a standardized and logical network design.  Once a logical network design has been laid out, the next step is developing a network naming convention that uniquely identifies each feature along the network, ideally based in part on the ‘name’ of the features parent or device.

So how does GIS fit in?

After developing the logical network design and associated naming convention, maintaining the requisite information to answer the 4 key questions listed above becomes a relatively straight-forward GIS exercise.  GIS features can be created to represent the fiber cable throughout the network, along with all of the appropriate attributes of the cable segment at that location.
Attributes can include strand designation information to represent the disposition of individual strands at the location in question.  In addition, a related table can be created to link the cable in question with more detailed strand records that can give specific details about the strands origination and destination.  In a modern integrated environment, these strand records can include real time information about active services from the BSS/OSS system in the strand record table.  In addition, fiber assignment data can be directly accessed from within the BSS/OSS platform.
By boiling the requirements for fiber records management down into the most basic critical questions that must be answered, you can simplify the task of tracking fiber records.  In order to fully realize the potential for simplifying the fiber records management process you must develop and enforce design standards across the network.  It is also important to realize a fiber records management system is simply another information system designed to provide basic information to trained staff members.  Expecting a FMS system to do more than this can lead to creation of unnecessarily complex systems that are both difficult to maintain and utilize.