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BEAD program: Is speed test compliance possible before activation?

In the race to bridge the digital divide, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program is instrumental in implementing the delivery of broadband internet access in rural or underserved areas. Given the governmental nature of the funding, grantees and subgrantees must show evidence that they are effectively delivering the expected broadband services to subscribers. But what is the most efficient and accurate way to perform the speed testing, and when should it be done?  

In this blog post, we delve into the importance of running speed tests prior to activation, in view of accelerating rollouts without compromising on quality.

Proving speed during the fiber rollout

It is not guaranteed that service providers will have customers immediately after the fiber is deployed. So, how can they prove network performance without an active customer connection? What if you could guarantee and have a report that your network infrastructure meets the required speed specifications right from the start? During the construction phase of a fiber rollout, it is not only possible but recommended to verify if the deployed link can deliver the promised performance. Ensuring speed compliance early on is the most efficient way to demonstrate to stakeholders that the network meets BEAD program standards and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Apart from proving compliance from the start, performing speed tests before network activation is a proactive approach in identifying and troubleshooting issues that could negatively impact performance. This includes identifying bottlenecks, signal degradation, or other issues that might compromise performance. By addressing these issues early, service providers can ensure smooth rollouts, avoid customer complaints, and prevent costly post-deployment truck rolls.

Comprehensive solutions and best practices

Once the fiber goes live, fast and accurate high-speed testing can be achieved with a purpose-built device like EXFO's EX10 tester. This tester can validate bandwidth speeds up to full line rate 10 Gigabit Ethernet. By using XGS-GPON link validation service providers can verify end-to-end network performance without the need of an active subscriber or user equipment, giving you proof that your infrastructure meets performance standards. When a customer is activated, the EX10 also empowers technicians to easily validate residential/business WiFi 6E and RJ45 for 10G speeds to monitor quality of experience (QoE).

The EX10 can also leverage cloud-hosted capabilities to share test results, track job progress and ensure compliance through EXFO Exchange, a trusted cloud-hosted solution that integrates with EXFO test instruments and allows you to manage, share and analyze test results. GPS coordinates are included for each result, offering real-time visibility over job progress and quality to managers. Overall, this makes the speed test report generation more efficient and organized for submission to the State Broadband Office responsible for the BEAD program.

Accelerating rollouts with the tests and training

EXFO's rural broadband solutions extends well beyond speed testing. As the world’s pioneers in optical testing, our comprehensive solution also includes one-touch, automatic fiber characterization with highly reliable and intuitive OTDRs, accurate and easy-to-use fiber inspection scopes, power meters (including innovative PON power meters), and other essential tools, all connected through EXFO Exchange for unprecedented efficiency and visibility.  

In the context of technician staffing issues and dwindling expertise in fiber-optic field testing, training becomes vital. To support fiber construction teams and contractors, EXFO offers free, on-demand fiber-optic training focusing on the critical technical aspects of installing, testing and maintaining fiber-optic networks.

From planning and construction to activation and beyond, get equipped with the tools and empowered with the expertise needed to ensure your broadband rollout is a success. Contact us to discuss your challenges and learn how we can support you. Together, let’s bridge the digital divide and bring high-speed internet to all! 

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