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PPC blog

Bringing fiber to Africa – reporting from Angola

Posted by Del Jeffery

Across Africa, the deployment of high speed networks is accelerating, with the continent part-way through a connectivity transformation. The landing of submarine cables around the African coast has provided high capacity links to the Internet, but networks are needed to connect inland areas to these hubs. Additionally, a growing percentage of the population relies on mobile phones, not just to make calls but also to bank, shop and access the Internet, leading to a requirement for cost-effective data backhaul.

The market need

Both high speed broadband and backhaul networks for mobile operators increasingly rely on fiber. Previous deployments of copper-based networks had cost advantages, but in many places problems with bad terminations and cable theft have led to outages, meaning that fiber is becoming the solution of choice.

Across Africa fiber is now the preferred carrier of backhaul services with SDH, DWDM and MPLS deployed for protected services and FTTx, FWA, GPON and microwave radio being the preferred methods for last mile deployments.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install

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Multicore networks – the solution to future fiber bandwidth needs?

Posted by Dave Stockton

Even in the midst of current fiber network rollouts, research and development is continuing on the next generation of optical technology, looking to meet the future fiber bandwidth needs of both FTTH and core fiber networks. In this blog I’m going to look at multicore networks, an area where current research could have a big potential impact on future network design and implementation.

The space paradox

It may come as something of a surprise, but the majority of the optical fiber within networks is quite literally a waste of space! Even more bizarrely, the most modern fibers are the biggest waste of space of all.

This paradox arises because of the way fibers transmit the signal they are fed. It is the relatively small core (central portion) of the fiber that carries the information in the network. The remainder of the fiber (the cladding) is there to provide protection and to bulk up the fiber sufficiently that our clumsy human hands can manipulate it. In the case of earlier, multimode fibers with a 62.5 micron core (and 125 micron cladding diameter), 25% of the cross section area of the fiber is used for signal transmission. This decreased to just 16% of the cross sectional area for 50 micron core multimode fiber and now, in the current G.675C fibers, less than 0.5% of the glass cross section is actually used to carry the signal.

Topics: Market trends, Fiber innovations

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The seven deadly sins of fiber cable installations

Posted by Rich Contreras

When planning, installing or updating a fiber network there are multiple issues that can push up cost and complexity. Many of these only manifest themselves when you actually visit the deployment site, see what existing infrastructure is in place and how you need to work with it. Whether it is completely congested ducts, rat’s nests of existing cables or poorly protected fiber connections, here are the top seven issues that we’ve come across when helping carry out implementations across the world.

1. Poor quality fiber cable protection

Fiber is inherently fragile, and many lower cost/poorer quality cables don’t provide much additional protection. This is particularly true when deployed in outside environments, where factors such as wind, rain and ultraviolet radiation from the sun can all cause protection tubing to fail, exposing cables to the elements. At the same time some cheaper protection tubes cannot be handled easily, as minimal force will cause them to break. In contrast higher quality versions can be clipped directly to walls such is their inherent strength.

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

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Fiber deployments and the Internet of Things

Posted by Joe Byrne

Previously, we’ve looked at the applications that will drive the need for Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks. One of the areas mentioned was the Internet of Things (IoT), and in this blog I’d like to look in more detail at what it is and what it will do.

What is the Internet of Things?

In a nutshell the Internet of Things involves providing previously ‘dumb’ devices with connections to the internet. A good definition is from BT - “The Internet of Things refers to technologies that allow networked devices to sense other devices and interact and communicate with them.”

The ‘Things’ are real world objects – essentially anything that can have a sensor embedded within it and is able to communicate wirelessly with the wider world, such as vehicles, machines, buildings, people, animals, goods or the environment around us. One Dutch farmer has fitted his cows with sensors, so he can be alerted to any health issues or when they need milking.

Topics: Fiber to the home, MDU, Market trends

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Choosing the right fiber cable to meet the National Electrical Code

Posted by Dave Stockton

In a previous blog, I looked at Standards Organizations, what they do and how they relate to each other. As a follow up this post looks at how installers can meet the specific US National Electrical Code (NEC) regulations by choosing the right fiber cable, and which standards to follow for individual deployments.

The US NEC covers building wiring requirements and is revised and reissued every 3 years, with NEC 2014 the current edition. It lists cables by their application, in line with the relevant ANSI, UL or CSA tests.

Article 770 and UL 1651 testing

For the fiber industry the key part of the NEC is article 770, which covers the installation of optical fiber cables and raceways in public and private buildings. There are exclusions for certain parts of specific industries such as mining, railways and electrical generation where the code doesn’t apply.

In UL 1651 the code identifies the following types of in-building optical fiber cables:

Topics: Design and Install, Regulatory/Policy

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Fiber to the Home connections poised to double in Europe

Posted by Tom Carpenter

Earlier in February, I attended the 2015 FTTH Europe conference in Warsaw, where there seemed to be greater optimism around the European fiber market than in previous years. This was backed up by the annual IDATE figures released by the FTTH Council Europe, which showed that the number of FTTH (Fiber to the Home) and FTTB (Fiber to the Building) subscribers had increased by 50% between 2013 and 2014.

In total, this means that there are now 14.5 million FTTH/FTTB subscribers in Europe, with a further 14.8 million in Russia and the Ukraine. Strong progress was seen in countries such as France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Romania, while Germany is poised to enter the rankings, as it approaches 1% of homes subscribing to fiber. Lithuania continues to top the charts, with nearly 35% of households benefiting from fiber broadband, followed by Sweden and Latvia.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Data/Statistics, Market trends

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2015 and key trends in the US fiber market

Posted by Larry Malone

In a previous blog post, my colleague, Tom Carpenter gave his views on the global Fiber to the Home (FTTH) market, and discussed the ongoing "net neutrality" debate.

In this post, I’m going to delve down a level and look at the trends that the m2fx US team is seeing in the FTTH broadband market and beyond, as 2015 unfolds. Putting net neutrality aside, there are three areas I’d pinpoint:

1. Fiber to the Building (or Premise) continues to grow

The market demand for fiber broadband is there, and carriers are looking at how they can address it most cost-effectively. Consumers and businesses are keen to embrace faster speeds – Akamai’s recent State of the Internet report found that the US had an average connection speed of 11.5 Mbps, behind the likes of Finland, Switzerland and South Korea.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends

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5 additional steps to reducing FTTX roll out costs

Posted by Joe Byrne

Last year, I published a blog post on the steps you can take to reduce FTTX roll out costs, aiming to help spread best practice amongst the fiber community. I invited feedback and suggestions from those in the field on other important steps that might also reduce implementation costs. In this post, I consider some of the points that people kindly shared with me – thanks again to everyone for their comments.

To recap, the 5 steps outlined in my original post were:

  1. Take time and research your options. Learn from your peers and ensure you are up to date with the latest thinking and best practice.
  2. Develop a solid plan for people, equipment and finance.
  3. Ensure you run a well thought out procurement process.
  4. Validate your plan with back-to-back trials of different deployment options.
  5. Have strength in your convictions and follow through.

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

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Successfully installing fiber in complex outside plant environments

Posted by Richard Wragg

We live in a world that relies on real-time information, and fiber optic networks are critical to transmitting this data at the speed of light. This is as true in industrial and outside plant environments as in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) deployments. Installing fiber networks in industrial settings is extremely complex, with challenges around space, limited potential routes and a need to protect fragile fiber against dust, dirt, damage and vibration.

Fiber for railroad signaling

The perfect example of this is a recent fiber deployment we worked on with a major US railway operator. It was within one of their largest yards, where fiber for signaling systems was being completely replaced. This was a mission-critical communications system for the railroad – without it the yard simply couldn’t operate, with a dramatic impact on the company’s entire operations. In such a tough environment, fiber has to cope with vibration from passing trains, changing climatic conditions and accidental damage from employees and equipment.

Topics: Design and Install, vertical markets

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Closing the loop – factors in choosing the right fiber closure

Posted by Dave Stockton

Closures are the housings which contain and protect the individual joints in any fiber system, as opposed to fiber joining (fusion splicing, connectorization and mechanical splicing), which are covered in this separate blog. Given how fragile fiber is, and the potential need to upgrade cables, good quality closures are vital to a successful installation. But what is a closure and what should you be looking for when choosing one?

Types of closures

Basic Closures

At its simplest, a closure joins one length of fiber cable to a different length of the same type of cable. This is sometimes known as in-line closure or track joint. Added functionality is provided by a spur (or branch) joint which divides the cable into two ongoing parts - the main cable and a side or spur cable. There are also end of route closures where the cable is broken out into individual elements for customer or telco connection.

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

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