Fulfilling the promise of master-planned communities relies heavily on fiber network connectivity and broadband capacity planning to design networks to handle and anticipate community needs. Many communities have already implemented some type of smart city technology or plan to do so in the future, but fiber networks power the integrated systems that make infrastructure use more efficient and safer to simplify the lives of residents. For example, Sterling Ranch is a community being developed in Colorado with the goal of becoming a fully integrated smart city.

The robust fiber network in Sterling Ranch powers the overall infrastructure as well as day-to-day amenities used by its residents, such as in-home smart panel technology. Sterling Ranch and other communities have taken smart city technology to the next level by implementing fiber networks in anticipation of and prepared for future growth and 5G implementation. To effectively incorporate advanced technology into future infrastructure operations, many industries — especially utilities — will need to adapt.

Investing in fiber connectivity and capacity planning as a core element of smart city development will prove beneficial for all utilities. Fiber-optic networks allow utilities to establish a more robust grid while a strategic capacity forecast helps to determine the gap between the existing and estimated needs to inform the adjustments needed. This provides more consistency in planning for future needs, with greater insight into consumer demand and a better understanding of resource utilization.

Real-time data collected by smart devices on fiber networks allows for maximum efficiencies. The utilities serving residents within communities like Sterling Ranch can minimize costs, reduce overall ecological footprint and forecast asset reliability. Utilizing fiber networks to collect real-time data allows utilities the flexibility to meet current demands and future needs while also saving money. The data output may also influence a utility’s decision to explore alternative resources — such as cleaner options — if desired levels of efficiency or performance are not being achieved. Gaining visibility and insight into what the communities of today desire or need from a sustainability standpoint will help to create optimal conditions for future communities.

With real-time customer and asset health information readily available, resources can be optimized, and asset lives extended. Such information provides visibility into more components of a network, allowing multiple entities to learn about outages and other issues faster. With this information, utilities can quickly determine the most efficient and cost-effective solution. Access to this data also gives utilities visualization into customers’ usage and preferences. This in turn could allow them to more accurately conduct rate studies and adjust rate schedules. For example, it is common for rates to be lower during off-peak hours, which are generally at night. However, with real-time data those rate schedules could shift to whenever the data shows the lowest customer usage.

Accessibility to more accurate data also could influence water utilities to plan differently for future smart communities. Traditionally, most water utilities do not install smart meters due to installation costs. With access to a fiber-optic network, water utilities may turn to smart metering to gain insight and optimize usage. Although not the cheapest upfront investment, smart meters empower long-term monitoring and planning, while reducing costs for unpredictable repairs.


Understanding the potential for effective fiber network planning can benefit both utilities and residential customers of smart, master-planned communities. Learn more about fiber connectivity and capacity for smart communities.

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Dwayne Bradley is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell. He delivers innovative and creative solutions related to fiber-optic infrastructure and telecommunications by providing full turnkey engineering services for small- and large-scale deployment projects.