Planning and survey
Planning and survey work informs detailed network design and the location of equipment essential to that network. It involves going out on site to survey all the underground ducts serving homes and businesses in the planned coverage area. Surveyors will also check whether there is access to a power source. This is important as new cabinets supporting fibre need power whilst existing cabinets supporting traditional copper networks do not.
A plan is then drawn up for exactly where the fibre, new ducts, street cabinets and additional underground and over ground equipment will go. The planners and surveyors will work with the Highways Authority and local planning authorities to ensure local considerations are taken into account as far as possible and that the best location for the installation of new cabinets and equipment can be found.
There are many considerations in this respect including being sensitive to areas of conservation, trying to avoid obstructing footways, avoiding trees (and therefore tree roots which may cause damage), avoiding existing buried utilities like gas and water pipes, ensuring the line of sight for highway users is not obstructed, and considering land ownership and any wayleave permissions, amongst others. Ideally, new cabinets supporting fibre need to be located as close to an existing copper cabinet as possible to maximise performance.
The information gained from the planning and survey work will shape the actual network build programme. This may be different from the shape of plans as initially modelled prior to survey. This is because unforeseen issues may be identified at the survey stage which cause plans or parts of plans to be delayed or changed. This could include, for example, the discovery of blocked or collapsed ducts under the ground or ducts which are full to capacity, or there may be no accessible power supply in the area. An example from elsewhere in the UK involved delays because a badger set lay in the path of the fibre build and the network needed to be re-routed! Plans or parts of plans may also be delayed or changed if an issue results in a significant cost increase whilst solutions which deliver better value for money are sought. These are all things which can't be known until engineers get out on site to complete their surveys.
Incidents can happen throughout the network build process so there is always a risk that plans may be subject to change as a result of unforeseen issues. This is why information on expected timescales for plans to come forward are indicative only.