Stay SAFE! – How Leakage Technologies Can Protect Your Network Heroes
Leakage Uses Changing
The first half of 2020 has certainly seen significant changes in the world around us, including how customers receive and use the services carried over our networks. Bandwidth consumption (especially the upstream) have skyrocketed with the pivots to eLearning and working from home, as has the criticality of the services that we deliver. There has also been a seismic shift in installation and troubleshooting of services, especially as they relate to entering a customers home or business. These and other recent events are driving a renewed interest in signal leakage technologies to help our network hero’s do their jobs while minimizing risk.
Pressure testing of drops and homes/businesses has gradually been standardized into installation practices for MSO’s of all sizes for many reasons:
- 23% reduction in return visits
- 5X reduction in resolution time for in-home wring issues
- Significant reduction in node-level upstream ingress issues
With the seemingly overnight mandate to not enter homes, operators had to get creative with how to continue these gains. Below are best practices adopted by leading cable operators:
- Continue to pressurize the drop, fix any issues noted
- Pressurize the home from the ground block, walk the perimeter of the home/business/MDU from outdoors where possible. Even nominal leaks are often detectable from outdoors with pressure testing. Reaction plan to major leaks vary per operator.
If entry is permitted, pressure test is again critical to minimize the time they spend inside. By listening to the changing pitch of the tone on their meter as they get closer to the leak source, Tech’s can quickly find and fix leaks while minimizing the areas of the home or business that they are exposed to.
It’s not just Installers/Service Tech’s who are putting themselves at risk. Maintenance Tech’s are also looking to minimize their exposure the field, especially in crowded urban environments. Plant leakage technologies are seeing increased usage during these times as they allow Tech’s to remain inside of their trucks, only exiting when they are very near the actual root cause issue. Modern algorithms in leakage management software have gotten quite good at quadrangulating multiple detections of a leak to determine the precise location to roll a truck to, and highly directional antennas make the final location of leaks much quicker. Less time spent walking the streets performing ingress remediation equals less risk.
The impact of ingress on networks is magnified as the upstream more than ever becomes the capacity pinch point. Any ingress that drops SNR impacts network reliability and bandwidth, especially for OFDM-A where a 4dB SNR change can result in a 50Mbps bandwidth impact – more than the equivalent of adding or removing a 6.4MHz SC-QAM carrier! Maintaining a tight plant has always been fundamental, but in todays world it matters more than ever.
Both pressure test and plant leakage technologies have seen increased adoption over the past couple of years as new innovations have been released, but the events of the past few months have certainly driven new interest in how they can help operators install and maintain services while minimizing risk. The underlying concept of pressurizing homes/drops to find otherwise difficult-to-detect leaks hasn’t changed, but how the tests are used has evolved with the new environment. Where plant leakage used to be the way to maintain regulatory compliance and reduce OPEX, it is now being seen more as a critical method for getting the highest reliability and bandwidth from the critical upstream while protecting Maintenance Techs. The good news is that even when we return to some new normal, investments made in leakage technologies will continue to pay dividends for those that have adopted them.
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