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Fibre Systems speaks to a lead design engineer and a fibre planner to find out about the day-to-day challenges they face on the front line

 

Mo Kashani, lead design engineer

I have been a fibre engineer for two and a half years. Prior to this I had no experience in fibre. I came from a wireless design engineering role. 4site had just partnered with SIRO in Ireland and needed designers on the project, so I started as a junior engineer and worked my way up. 

My role varies day-to-day, which keeps it interesting. I have a lot of interaction with the client and other stakeholders in order to solve any problems that arise on site. This is a very dynamic environment and you have to be able to think fast and react, providing solutions to the problems. 

We have a culture of mentoring and supporting other engineers, so a large amount of my daily day-to-day tasks involve further training of any less experienced colleagues. Quality is also a main pillar in any design, so quality control of the design packs, completed by others, could make their way into my daily routine at some stage in the day. 

Busy environment 

One of the most satisfying parts of my job is working in a very fast-paced build environment. There is a very short span of time between design and build turnaround. Seeing your design becoming a reality is a great feeling. There is a new thing to be learnt every day, which makes my job very exciting, as I thrive by learning something new. 

Probably the most challenging aspect of what I do is the lack of vision and future-proofing from the government, and not having a unified standard plan in place. Although, this is about to change. It can be frustrating when there is a lack of planning at council levels and lack of co-operation between local authorities and providers installing the infrastructure. 

The biggest issues affecting the deployment of fibre from an engineer’s standpoint involve the cost of infrastructure roll-out in untouched or remote areas, without support of government incentives. This is very prohibitive for any provider, as the cost justification is not possible as a private entity. 

Government needs to back up the fibre roll-out with legislation to allow wider access to the existing infrastructure and privately-owned land to secure right-of-way similar to what ESB Networks would be granted in order to provide electricity. Whether this can be combatted is largely dependent on government policy and their support. 

Looking ahead 

In the industry’s short-term future, I would like to see the approach for mass connectivity with fibre-enabled premises and businesses focusing on densely populated zones that will return maximum yield in unit connections against minimum effort, time and disruptions to the surroundings. 

As for the long-term, very rigid guidelines need to be implanted to assure any future developments are in line with delivering fibre to any type of premises. 

Government legislation need to be the main agenda, in order to incentivise and assure delivery of fibre everywhere in the country. 

I would highly recommend a career in fibre, as it is still a niche market, and the highly-skilled workforce is not easy to find in this sector. There will be always demand for every faculty from fibre designer to cable splicers and so on. Due to the environment we are in, with all the new technologies coming online, there is always something new to learn, so for inquisitive minds this would be a real treat. 

For those open to overcoming challenges and who thrive by doing so, this could be a great sector to get into. 

Michael O’Sullivan, fibre planner

I have been a fibre planner for three years. I wanted to get an overall perspective of the industry, so I started out as team lead on the surveying of fibre infrastructure, then progressed to the design department on the CityFibre project, where I was able to apply the on-the-ground skills I acquired into my designs. 

Day-to-day, I oversee the designers, where I interact with the client, manage quality control and address any on-the-ground queries that may arise. There is a good mix of graduates and senior level staff working on the project, which gives me time to ensure all graduates understand the infrastructure and design needs of the clients. 
 
The most satisfying part of my job is visualising a design, putting it on paper and then seeing it built. There is no greater feeling than this. I particularly enjoy when I am approached with a difficult design and I must come up with an innovative solution. 
 
I’d have to say the most challenging aspect can be maintaining our high design standards, while in tandem meeting the clients schedule. Quality is key and we won’t let a design out of the door if we are not happy. 
 
In terms of some of the biggest issues affecting my role, we all know that there are numerous operators that are willing to serve urban areas with fibre, but the deployment of fibre universally is ultimately hindered by cost. 
 
Share alike
If you live in a rural area, it’s just not financially viable to run hundreds of metres of fibre to serve one or two premises. Sharing of network infrastructure would be one of the main solutions, with a recent example being BT opening its network to others in the UK. 
 
Looking forward in the short term, I think like many others that the industry is going to continue to build fibre connections to more populated areas, which is undoubtedly going to be a positive thing. Although I’d love to see the more rural areas get connected. Long term, I’d love to see the industry unite to achieve 100 per cent connection in the UK. It has already begun with the sharing of networks but if there was a neutral host network in place, it would be beneficial to both the operators and end-users. 
 
I couldn’t recommend a career in fibre highly enough. Skilled people are hard to find and it’s a career where you, as a designer, are future-proofing an area and in turn you are making a difference for thousands of people and businesses. If you have an analytical and inventive mind, then this is the career for you. 
 
On a daily basis you are designing the infrastructure that’ll enable our future smart cities to function. There are constantly new technologies being implemented by planners which means it’s always an interesting and exciting job.  

Mo Kashani is lead design engineer and Michael O’Sullivan is fibre planner at 4site

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