What is OSP? An Introduction to Outside Plant Fiber Optic Network Management - VETRO FiberMap (2022)

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  • Written November 24, 2021

What is OSP?

In telecom, OSP stands for outside plant. Put simply, OSP refers to all of the equipment, cables and infrastructure that are located outside of a building. While the term outside plant can be used when referring to communications networks like telephone or cable, today we’ll dive into OSP fiber networks, the foundation upon which the internet is built.

But first, let’s do a quick overview of the general anatomy of a fiber to the premise, or FTTP, network so that we can see where OSP fits in.

What is OSP? An Introduction to Outside Plant Fiber Optic Network Management - VETRO FiberMap (1)
(Video) netTerrain OSP (Outside Plant) Software: Overview

Anatomy of FTTP

Fiber to the premise describes a fiber optic network that connects homes, businesses or any building (the “premise,” or service location) to high speed broadband service. An example of a widely recognized brand name in FTTP networks is Verizon Fios, but FTTP is offered globally by internet operators of every size and shape. As broadband funding heats up in the US and beyond, rural electric cooperatives, utility companies, school districts and an almost unlimited variety of other institutions are becoming ISPs, entering the fiber space to offer fiber to the home, business and beyond.

Every fiber to the home network is unique, making generalizations about fiber to the home network design difficult. To define OSP, the description of network design offered here will be a simplified example of only one type of possible fiber to the home design.

The Central Office

A fiber to the premise network starts at the central office, or CO, also referred to as a headend, point of presence (PoP) or data center. The CO is the start of a fiber to the premise network – picture a big server room with lots of wires and equipment, the “brain” of the operation. The network begins here, pushing an optical light signal out to other locations via distribution cables.


Distribution cabling is a dense bundle of fiber cables designed to carry large amounts of data between two locations on the same network. The Fiber Optic Association offers a thorough deep dive into fiber cables on their web site if you’re curious about the details of fiber cabling.

In this example, the first location the distribution cables will connect is the central office. The distribution cables will physically connect to one or more locations outside of the central office. This second location or locations are called midspan nodes. These nodes are typically close to a neighborhood, business center or other area identified to receive service from the ISP operating the network.

The Midspan Node(s)

The Midspan node is a physical location on a network, at which network equipment is housed in a case, cabinet, manhole or other “container.”

There is a wide variety of equipment that might be placed at a midspan node, but the notable equipment in this example is a splitter. The splitter will further distribute the optical light signal downstream to the service location.

The Premise / Service Location

From the midspan node, the network must carry the light signal to and from each individual home, business or other type of premise on the network. The main cables that leave the midspan node to travel to a street or group of premises in a neighborhood are called drop cables.

(Video) VETRO FiberMap Live Demo and Q&A recorded October 21, 2020

The point on the outside of the building where the drop cable connects is often called an optical termination point.

This connection point houses equipment that will convert the optical light signal sent by a fiber strand into an electrical signal that is then distributed to users in the home via a modem. The modem then connects to an internet-enabled device via an ethernet cable or, more commonly, a wireless router that enables the connected customer to binge “Squid Game,” work from home or broadcast their Twitch stream with the fastest, most reliable connection.

What is OSP? An Introduction to Outside Plant Fiber Optic Network Management - VETRO FiberMap (2)

The Physical Internet

If you work in OSP management, engineering or network design, you know how oversimplified the above description is. However, it provides the basis of understanding outside plant or OSP.

Outside Plant represents all of the physical cables, equipment and locations outside of a building. In the above example, outside plant starts at the point at which the distribution cabling leaves the central office, and ends at the termination point on the outside of a premise receiving internet service. All of the physical, tangible assets that enable your network between two “inside” locations make up the outside plant network.

Designing an OSP network is a highly specialized function, and getting it right can be difficult. The example used here is an abridged version of an actual fttp network and does not adequately represent the vast amount of equipment that a network uses; in addition the large inventory that must be accounted for, OSP also takes into account the relationships between equipment and cables and how things are affected downstream and upstream when any changes are made.

A Constantly Shifting Relational Landscape

Engineers designing OSP networks must also consider how they will troubleshoot the network and make repairs and upgrades. To fix something, you must be able to physically reach it. So OSP design and planning has to include careful consideration around where a piece of equipment can be located. To decide whether a splitter can be located at a certain place, for example, an engineer may have to visit the location and look for a manhole or telephone pole to put it on, or determine whether there is public land on which to place a cabinet.

As if all of these operational logistics weren’t enough, OSP engineers are also tasked with planning and maintaining capacity – how much data can flow through any one location on the cables and equipment in place. A network’s capacity can change in an instant if a storm blows a tree down onto aerial cables, a flood wipes out electrical connections to equipment, or sneaky little critters decide they want to chew through buried fiber cables. When that happens, OSP engineers are on the job to determine how to fix the network, re-route the signal, or come up with any number of other solutions. OSP professionals are the creative heroes of fiber network operations.

(Video) Fundamentals of Outside Plant OSP

The Devil is in Documenting the Details

So how do OSP professionals keep all of this constantly changing data straight? It’s all about documentation. Records that are easy to access, understand and update are a critical need in managing outside plant fiber. But due to the complex relational connections between connectivity and physical assets, documentation might be the most difficult part of any OSP job.

Everyone knows how to use spreadsheets to manage data, but they’re hard to maintain and are missing that key “third dimension” of network documentation: physical location overlaid with connectivity.

Documenting the hardware, connection points and even just the fibers inside each cable are a great start. But to bring all of these dimensions to life and make the data actionable and accessible, visualizations and maps are the real answer. More than a google map with lines drawn on it to represent a network, OSP design and management require geospatial (GIS) mapping done with tools designed to represent complex data as it exists in the physical world.

Some OSP engineers use generic GIS software like QGIS to gain insight into that crucial third dimension, creating map-based representations of their networks. And for those engineers that have deep GIS expertise and the time to set up a customized set of data parameters to use in the system, these kinds of GIS platforms offer the ability to view and edit network data.

What is OSP? An Introduction to Outside Plant Fiber Optic Network Management - VETRO FiberMap (3)

The Future of Fiber: Democratized Documentation

Here at VETRO, we’re proponents of using a purpose-built fiber OSP design, documentation and management solution. Our first look at fiber design and management was back in 2008, when VETRO was called NBT Solutions and built custom GIS platforms for all kinds of clients. ISPs asking us for the ability to design, document and manage all of their OSP information in a flexible cloud environment was how we first conceived of and started building VETRO FiberMap, our flagship fiber management platform.

More than a decade later, and with hundreds of conversations with OSP professionals fueling our product, we found that the solution to the massive and complex challenges faced by network operators was simple: build a system tailored to fiber that relieves your core OSP engineering team of the burden of meticulous documentation, endless updates, swivel chair syndrome and errors across multiple apps.

And as we rolled VETRO FiberMap out to our customers, what we saw was incredible: pristine documentation that can be engaged with easily doesn’t just prevent problems and save time. Our customers began to use their network documentation to gain new insight into their operations, optimize capacity, unearth new revenue streams and gain productivity across every department of their businesses. Great documentation isn’t just a stopgap; it creates opportunity and gives you the peace of mind you deserve.

(Video) VETRO FiberMap Network Management & Productivity Software Platform - Live Demo and Q&A Nov 5, 2020

So, what is OSP? It’s both the physical assets upon which connectivity runs and the deeply detailed documentation that gives an ISP the information it needs to offer the very best service to their customers. OSP professionals show us time and again that your network map is as valuable as your network itself.

  • Tags: community broadband, fiber management, OSP, outside plant, resources, state and local

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What is OSP and how it works? ›

An Outside-Plant Engineer (OSP) plays a prominent role within the Telecom Industry. The primary responsibility of an OSP Engineer revolves around the construction and maintenance of plant infrastructure, design, and engineering as well as providing a route analysis of underground & aerial fiber optic installations.

What does OSP and ISP stand for? ›

ISP stands for inside plant. OSP stands for outside plant. ISP sells access to the internet services means data connectivity to the users. OSP sells online services via the internet to the desired users.

What is the difference between OSP and ISP? ›

ISP stands for Inside Plant and OSP stands for Outside Plant. According to Building Industry Construction Service International (BICSI), OSP is any network infrastructure installed external to buildings.

What is OSP cabling? ›

An OSP cabling system is a telecommunications facility on the premises that connects to the information and/or data-com system. This is necessary for many large facilities, like industrial plants, universities, hospitals and research centers.

What is OSP outside plant? ›

In telecom, OSP stands for outside plant. Put simply, OSP refers to all of the equipment, cables and infrastructure that are located outside of a building.

What is the role of OSP Engineer? ›

The Job. As OSP Engineer you will: Must have OSP design knowledge and be capable of designing outside plant work orders, providing administrative and field support to the outside plant provisioning process and be familiar with the various communications outside plant concepts, such as copper, fiber optic, and coax.

What is OSP management? ›

The OSP Manager is responsible for the daily performance, KPI, maintenance, repair of a. Outside Plant (OSP) network. Analysis network and recommends upgrades/changes, assesses current and future network needs. Oversees the daily operations of network staff and records incidents and changes.

What is OSP fiber design? ›

Single Fiber Optic Cable (FOC) per conduit

The OSP-Designer will check if sub-ducting could be a viable way to provide an individual conduit per FOC or study and validate alternative physical routes on new or existing civil infrastructure.

What is Telecom OSP installation? ›

The Telecom OSP Installation (Fiber Optic Cable) Qualification consists of competencies that a person must possess to install pole hardware and accessories, lay out and install fiber optic cables and accessories as well as to climb poles, enter/re-enter and clean manhole splice, re-splices fiber optic cables and ...

What is OSP license? ›

Introduction to OSP License

OSP stands for Other Service Providers referring to the service provided in the Telecommunication Industry which uses telecom resources. It involves BPO/call centers, e-commerce, telebanking, telemedicine,-education, and other IT enabled services.

What is OTDR in optical fiber? ›

An Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) is a device that tests the integrity of a fiber cable and is used for the building, certifying, maintaining, and troubleshooting fiber optic systems.

What is ISP and examples? ›

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, or Spectrum that provides Internet access to companies, families, and even mobile users. ISPs use fiber-optics, satellite, copper wire, and other forms to provide Internet access to its customers.

What type of fiber cable is mostly used in OSP installations? ›

For premises and campus cable plants, OM3 type laser-optimized 50/125 multimode fiber is probably the best choice for any multimode OSP runs, as its lower attenuation and higher bandwidth will make most networks work better.

Can OSP cable be used indoors? ›

Outdoor only cables typically use materials that are very robust (harder) and have other qualities that prevent them from passing indoor flammability tests. Outdoor only cables are not rated, meaning they have not passed any flammability test and cannot be used indoors per U.S. national electrical code.

What type of fiber-optic cable is used outdoors only? ›

Loose tube cables are the most commonly deployed outdoor cable design, featuring a central strength member, stranded buffer tubes containing loose optical fibers, and fiber counts up to 432 F.

What is OSP payment? ›

Occupational or contractual sick pay is a payment from your employer if you are off work due to sickness. Usually occupational sick pay is inclusive of Statutory Sick Pay (your minimum entitlement when you are unable to work at your job due to sickness).

Who needs OSP license? ›

Who can Obtain DOT OSP License/Registration? Private Limited Company or One Person Company (OPC) that is registered under Companies Act 2013 can obtain DOT OSP License. The following are the documents required for Private Limited Registration.

What is OSP in oil and gas? ›

Also known as: OSP. An official selling price is an announced price, typically for crude oil, that is offered to all buyers in the market for a set period of time (usually a calendar month). OSPs are typically set using a formula or differential to market benchmarks.

What is OSP other service provider? ›

'Other Service Provider (OSP) is an Indian company, registered under the Indian Companies Act, 2013 or an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership) registered under LLP Act, 2008 or a partnership firm or an organization registered under Shops and Establishment Act providing voice based Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) ...


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