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PPC blog

An introduction to fiber cable pushing machines

Posted by Dave Stockton

Since they were first introduced in the 1980s, optical fiber cables have dramatically shrunk in size. A 96 fiber cable can now weigh 30kg/km (down from 300kg/km) and have a diameter of 7mm, compared to 20mm for first generation cables.

Similarly, 12 fiber drop cables used to connect individual FTTH customers now weigh less than 10kg/km and have a diameter of 1-3mm. These are normally installed into microducts, which typically range in outside diameter size from 3-18mm.

This leads to new challenges for installers when it comes to equipment. Previously cables would have been installed with heavy equipment, such as winches and capstans, or heavy compressors and blowing heads. However, this has four big disadvantages in the last drop:

1. People
It requires multiple operators, pushing up costs.

2. Disruption and mess
Customers don’t want bulky equipment in their buildings or apartments, particularly if it damages their homes.

3. Equipment cost
Operators need to invest in buying or hiring expensive machines to carry out installations.

4. Time
While the cable install itself may not take long, setting up (and dismantling machines) is time-consuming, limiting the number of installs that can be completed in a day.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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Why we need to ditch copper for fiber networks

Posted by Paul Ryan


Today we are almost completely dependent on our connectivity. Thanks to the web, we are surfing, streaming, working more flexibly, and turning our homes, cars or other assets into moneymaking opportunities. And we’ve only just started.

Add in the nascent App Economy, the Internet of Things, and the fact that emerging markets will soon add another billion internet users, and it is obvious that our data usage will continue to grow rapidly. Being connected is key to full membership of modern society, and connectivity is a primary driver of future economic activity at a personal and national level.

So I ask you this: why, oh why, are we still relying on historic investments in copper to support this fast burgeoning data reality?

Copper/coax hybrid networks can no longer be the answer. Future proofing our economies and our citizens’ ability to participate fully in society needs investment in fiber networks and, unfortunately for those making the spending decisions, the future is now.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends, Regulatory/Policy

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The mechanics of aerial fiber cable

Posted by Shaun Trezise

With a plethora of aerial fiber cable products on the market today it can be difficult to differentiate and fully appreciate why one construction is or isn’t more suitable than another.

This blog aims to outline the different options once you’ve decided to go down the aerial route – for a more detailed look at the factors affecting the choice of aerial deployments take a look at this previous post.

Taking a very broad overview of the aerial installation solutions presently available, there are two distinct approaches: either installing fiber into an aerial drop tube or microduct, or deploying a stand-alone self-supporting cable.

Normally the fiber-in-duct approach will require two installation phases, whereas the self-supporting aerial cable route can be deployed in one stage. From this you’d assume that the self-supporting cable solution reduces labour costs.

But this is actually not the case, so let’s delve deeper and further subdivide these two options into two more, assessing each for the total cost outlay, installation time and applicability in different areas of a fiber network.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI

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What is pushable fiber and why do we need it?

Posted by Joe Byrne


When it comes to deploying fiber networks, installers and planners face multiple challenges. This is particularly true when it comes to the last drop section, between the curb and the premises, or inside buildings themselves. The natural landscape and the built environment vary between deployments, which makes every install a standalone civil engineering project that requires planning, skill and experience to deliver.

Time is money, so deployments need to be carried out as quickly as possible – without compromising quality, reliability or upsetting home or business owners.

Traditional methods of installing fiber (blowing or pulling) are not well suited to the demands of the last drop. This has led to the emergence of pushable fiber – a relatively new way of meeting deployment challenges.

This blog looks at what pushable fiber is, its advantages and why it is needed.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI, Fiber innovations

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Why we all need fiber broadband

Posted by Paul Ekpenyong


Many years ago when I was in Japan on business, I had the pleasure of travelling on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka. It is now the world's busiest high-speed rail line, with up to thirteen trains with sixteen cars each (containing 1,323 seats), running every hour in each direction between Tokyo and Osaka - with a minimum gap of three minutes between trains.

My journey was in the days when we were still talking about the possibility of high speed trains and the Channel Tunnel in the UK. Having ever only travelled on Amtrak and UK InterCity trains, the journey on the bullet train was a complete revelation. It was comfortable, fast, (really fast!) and smooth, as it transported us between the two cities. In fact, it was so effortless (compared to the rattling of the US and UK trains), that you hardly felt you were moving as it sped along. I marveled at the technology that made that possible and wondered why we were so far behind in other countries.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends, Regulatory/Policy

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Delivering in-building fiber - without disruption

Posted by Rich Contreras


Whether through streaming HD content from the internet or accessing "traditional"’ TV programmes online, consumers are widening the ways in which they watch films and TV shows.

Fiber provides the perfect network to transport even the most bandwidth-intensive content into subscribers' living rooms, providing the ability for it to be watched on TVs, tablets, phones or computers.

Consumers understand this, which is why fiber networks are becoming more and more popular around the world.

Real estate companies are increasingly reflecting this demand by ensuring that their apartment buildings and condominiums can support the latest technology through fiber networks.

Installing a state of the art in-building fiber network helps attract and retain tenants and can differentiate against similar properties in the area.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, MDU

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Building a national fiber backbone in Africa

Posted by Tim Gigg


Many of us have experience of deploying fiber in the US and Europe, and know how tough that can be. However, installing fiber in Africa has its own unique challenges, as I found out when I worked at Ghana Telecom for two years after it was acquired by Vodafone.

Having never worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, I thought it would be a great challenge and opportunity, and was delighted when I got the job. Arriving was an experience in itself.

For those who have never been to Sub-Saharan Africa, it is difficult to convey the impact of arriving and stepping off the plane into 36 degrees Celsius; taking in your first impressions while your senses are assaulted by the noise, heat, and environment.

You are either hooked or can’t wait for the return flight. Fortunately, I was in the first camp. 

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install, Industrial premises

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Why GPON needs to change - introducing NGPON2

Posted by Dave Stockton


When deciding the best fiber architecture for their network, planners have to make the choice between point to point (P2P) or a passive optical network (PON).

Both have strengths and weaknesses, as we covered in a previous blog

The majority of network operators have invested in GPON and GEPON architectures.

However, since they’ve been installed, predicted bandwidth needs have increased dramatically, meaning that they now need to change.

Consequently, much work has been done in creating a successor to GPON and GEPON, ensuring that PON architectures are able to underpin future, higher capacity networks.

After a false start along the way, the new NGPON2 standard, created by the FSAN group, looks set to achieve this.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Fiber innovations

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Installing fiber and preserving history at Denver University

Posted by Dan Patuto


One of the toughest implementations to manage successfully can be when installing fiber at a Brownfield site, as we recently found at Denver University in Colorado.

Often crews won’t know what is already in place, making it difficult to plan, and forcing installers to think on their feet and reroute cables to fit into the available space.

The difficulty is compounded when buildings have been constructed before the 1930s - a time when building codes were more relaxed (or non-existent). Wherever they are located in the US, most of these don’t have integral ducts, and no-one currently employed has any knowledge of the structural details of how they were built. Spaces are normally cramped, leading to fiber being routed through multiple 90 degree bends to reach its destination. 

Adding to the potential headache, many buildings will have already been retrofitted with telephone or power cables after they were built, and the plans may not be available. Finally, particularly for older buildings, the aesthetics cannot be disturbed, so the installation has to respect the existing fabric, which may be structurally fragile by now.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install, Industrial premises

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Picking the right fiber connector – PC, UPC or APC

Posted by Shaun Trezise

I wrote a blog post last year on the different types of connectors available, which sparked a great deal of  feedback and discussion, demonstrating how important the whole topic is to both fiber installers and network planners alike.

Thanks again to everyone around the world that contributed, both directly on the PPC's blog and through various social groups.

To recap, I covered SC, LC, FC, ST and MTP/MPO connectors, and looking through the comments I thought it would be beneficial to focus on one area that the original post deliberately didn’t cover - the differences between Angled Physical Contact (APC) and Ultra Physical Contact (UPC) connectors.

Beside one having a green body and the other being colored blue, the different ways they both treat light is crucial in planning a network, as several readers pointed out.

To help us understand all this jargon, let’s look back at why the original Flat Fiber Connector evolved into the Physical Contact (PC) connector and then onto UPC and APC.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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