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Shentel taps Render Networks to streamline fiber construction

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel) is employing Render Networks' construction management platform to handle the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) expansions for its Glo Fiber brand.

Glo Fiber’s FTTH multi-gigabit broadband internet access, live streaming TV and digital home phone service is available to 183,000 households across Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Render's platform will be used in all markets where Shentel is building, and is already in three markets right now, according to a Shentel spokesperson.

The network construction platform leverages geospatial, task-level data for automation. Shentel will also tap into its quality assurance features to enable construction teams to review and validate data and photos captured as work is completed.

Specifically, Render’s platform will enable Shentel to break projects into more manageable sections for construction crews. Paired with an “easy user interface,” the spokesperson said Shentel expects to use Render to help make the “build process and communication regarding what is built, more efficient.”

While Shentel doesn’t anticipate Render will speed up the GloFiber expansion, the product is expected to make the process “less paper/email intensive and create clear communication between the construction teams and Shentel engineering.”

Shentel has set a goal of 450,000 fiber homes passed by the end of 2026, and has been steadily picking up funding along the way.

In May the company snagged two awards totaling $6.3 million to cover just over 3,000 locations in Virgina, and in August bagged over $1.5 million in West Virginia broadband grants to build out its network across almost 1,000 locations. Shentel also got $9.4 million to expand its network in Frederick County, Maryland in April.

This year Shentel reached 165,000 fiber passings in Q1, and rolled out a new symmetrical 5 Gbps internet tier, making it available to all 147,000 passings where it currently offers Glo Fiber service.

Render CEO Sam Pratt said some of the most common challenges providers face during the construction of new networks or expansion of existing infrastructure involve labor and workforce. According to him, 65% of total network investment is spent on construction, while 85% of spend is on labor and contractors.

“The labor market is currently constrained and costs are inflated,” Pratt told Fierce, and Render’s platform aims to keep “boots on the ground busy,” while prioritizing real-time visibility into projects, as well as forecasting and tracking material use and waste.

To get to customer deployment faster, Render in partnership with VETRO FiberMap has also automated the customer sign-up to connection process.

Render is currently involved in 26 construction and maintenance projects across the U.S., UK and Australia. That includes projects with the likes of Strata Networks, Archtop Fiber, Colorado Springs Utilities, All Points Broadband, InfoWest, First Electric Cooperative, Empower and SpringNet.

Pratt noted that as funding from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program is soon to hit the market, it “remains a dominant theme and opportunity for operators.”

According to Costquest’s Broadband Fabric dataset, the U.S. currently has 114 million Broadband serviceable locations, 8.1 million of which are considered unserved and will be prioritized for deployment and connection – “that’s the task at hand for all of us,” he said.

“Traditional construction management will not deliver the required speed, visibility or outcomes.”

To meet federal and state grant funding requirements, operators are faced with mandated delivery milestones and metrics if they don’t want to risk penalties for noncompliance. Pratt said early identification of performance issues or at-risk delivery milestones is going to be "exceedingly important" in the upcoming funding rounds.

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