GIS for Telecom | How to optimize network operations

Telecommunications is one of the fastest-growing GIS markets in the world.

According to technavio blog, GIS in telecommunications had a compound annual growth rate of 10.89% from 2013 to 2018.

Real-time information for strategic planning is cited as the primary driver of increased demand.

Telecommunications networks are expansive and create large quantities of geographically dispersed asset data.

GIS provides the ideal tool for managing that data. GIS mapping enables telecom providers to enhance network planning, deployment, maintenance, operations, and even sales and marketing.

New to GIS? Take a quick tour of the fundamentals in our simple guide Intro to GIS: What It Is and How to Get Started.

Benefits of GIS In Telecommunications

There are dozens of applications for GIS within the telecommunications industry, all of which stand to benefit from increased location intelligence and real-time access to asset data.

Integrating GIS into daily operations can help telecom organizations to:

  • Increase access to and reliability of infrastructure data
  • Decrease operating costs
  • Improve operational decision-making
  • Simplify planning for future networks
  • Improve response time to network issues
  • Invest resources effectively

Ultimately, these benefits boil down to improving operational efficiency by streamlining daily processes and increasing access to vital data.

A city depicting telecommunications connections

Telecom operations can be broken into two broad categories: network planning and deployment, and operations and maintenance. Below we explore how GIS can be applied throughout these processes.

We'll also look at how increased location intelligence can benefit telecom marketing and sales.

GIS in Network Planning & Deployment

The goal of good network planning is to effectively address the needs of both operator and subscriber. Broadly speaking, network planning has three primary components: topological design, network synthesis, and network realization.

Topological survey: Deciding where network components should be placed and how they should be connected

Network synthesis: Deciding what size components to use

Network realization: Creating strategy on how to meet capacity requirements and maintain network reliability

Once network planning is complete, it’s time to move to deployment.

Telecom network deployment shares many similarities with a construction project; however, unlike most construction projects, network deployment is spread across large territories.

GIS allows users to integrate a wide variety of project data, including topography, population density, and predicted population trends.

This helps create a single source of project data, enabling providers to track progress and streamline communication between field and office.

Ultimately, GIS optimizes organizational workflows by unifying data and minimizing communication gaps.

Another important aspect of network planning is determining potential market size prior to expansion.

GIS can help telecommunications providers assess potential areas for customer growth. With detailed demographic information such as employment, affluence, and neighborhood characteristics, providers can generate maps that help to pinpoint ideal areas for network expansion.

GIS in Maintenance & Operation of Existing Structures

GIS mapping can be valuable in the maintenance and operation of network existing structures. The confluence of data management and location provides the ideal system for documenting infrastructure status and maintenance history.

When organizing everything by location, it’s much simpler to track all the various network components: cables, ducts, towers, and even splice points.

Once network assets have been added to the map, companies can easily create a geo-located record of asset inspections, past maintenance, and notes for future work.

As with planning and deployment, GIS essentially acts as a unified repository for all operations and maintenance data - helping to provide a reliable record for future work.

With all network data in one place, historical asset data is easily accessible and field inspection teams need less time for onboarding.

Accurate data, especially when it's available in real-time, also helps ensure work is done correctly the first time - significantly reducing rework.

GIS for Sales & Marketing

GIS can also be used for market analysis. Telecom companies can compare consumer preferences, lifestyles, and demographics to create well-informed market strategies.

Using GIS for telecom market analysis allows organizations to:

1. Identify new opportunities
2. Analyze past and current sales
3. Monitor customer sentiment
4. Enhance understanding of market demand

Telecommunications companies need to cut costs, attract new customers, and stay ahead of their competition.

It’s not as simple as finding the oldest equipment and giving it an update — companies must focus on the areas most likely to bring in more customers. The almighty dollar rules once more, and the key focus is revenue growth.

By enabling the ability to layer different types of information on a single map, GIS helps telecommunications providers effectively identify areas of potential growth - increasing the chances of good return on investment.

Deep Dive: Cloud GIS for Fiber Optic Network Deployment

Fiber optic network planning and deployment is a great example of how GIS can benefit telecommunications providers.

As technology has advanced, old copper wire and long-distance landline networks are being replaced by fiber-optic cable. 5G networks are also dependent on fiber optic cable, as they require more speed and bandwidth than their network predecessors.

GIS can be used to prioritize which areas most need improvements, determine a plan for network layout, and inform strategies on how best to meet capacity requirements.

Generally speaking, the fiber-optic network deployment process goes something like this:

Planning: Identify coverage area and optimal cable routes

Engineering: Design the network and estimate costs

Management: Gather information for maintenance and expansion after the system is in place

Building the GIS Database: Store and organize geospatial data

Cloud GIS can help optimize every step in this process. With cloud GIS, all planning, engineering, and data are stored in one place, and all of that data can be updated and viewed in real-time.

Companies can combine aerial and underground imagery, then add geo-located asset data in order to quickly create layered, data-rich maps. This kind of clear documentation decreases opportunities for error and streamlines communication throughout the organization.

Cloud GIS can be accessed via any web browser, and often comes with native mobile applications - offering significant benefits for any kind of locationally dispersed work.

Field teams can use a smartphone to capture data and make updates as they're inspecting assets and/or performing maintenance. Office teams can use their desktop computer to create maps, while project managers use a tablet to assign tasks and view progress.

With cloud GIS, anyone can create, view, and edit deployment plans - from anywhere, using any device.

With most desktop GIS platforms, field teams must capture data on one device and then manually transfer data it to another. With cloud-based GIS, field teams can collect data directly into the cloud GIS platform: minimizing data transfer, reducing opportunities for error, and speeding up the data capture process as a whole.

Field data collection white paper


It’s clear GIS can be a powerful tool in the telecommunications industry.

From planning and deployment, through to maintenance and daily operations - GIS mapping for telecom has potential to enhance a provider’s workflow from start to finish.

Manage the deployment of dispersed fiber networks

If you're curious about leveraging GIS and want to explore the benefits it could have for your organization, make sure to check out OnePlace, Unearth's Mobile GIS. Get started in GIS by mapping the data you already have - spreadsheets, photos, and more.

Unearth's Mobile GIS on a laptop and mobile device

Explore GIS applications within...

Oil & Gas


Urban Planning


Get the latest in infrastructure news. Sign up for our newsletter.