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PPC blog

How to understand price and value in broadband networks

Posted by Rick Haube

In managing the infrastructure of broadband networks, an often underacknowledged element is the coaxial cabling and connectors required to deliver the very services your customers pay for.

Research shows that possibly the most significant issue for service providers is service calls in "the last mile" (or "the last drop") - the connection from the end of the distribution network up to and including the customer premise equipment.

The research indicates that the leading cause of service calls, as much as 40 percent, is due not only to improper installation of coaxial cable and connectors, or simply loose connectors, but also that the connectors being employed are of sub-standard quality within the environment, affecting electrical and mechanical performance. This has historically been such a chronic issue that some operators have come to accept it as a cost of doing business.

Topics: Costs/ROI, Broadband

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How to Prepare the Drop for DOCSIS 3.1

Posted by Dave Daly

Delivering DOCSIS services, whether it is 64 QAM upstream (3.0) or orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) 1024 (3.1), is often possible with minimal investment and network changes. However, to maximize delivery quality with the highest data speeds requires an in-home network resilient against interference and noise contributors. Where is your performance for the next generation of services? 

There are several obstacles to delivering DOCSIS technologies, including the common effects of loose connectors, signal level discrepancies and ingress/ egress. In addition, the peripheral wireless technology, long term evolution (LTE), is present in homes within the same spectrum (regionally specific) as broadband cable systems.

The question that cannot be avoided today is: "How do we consistently reach the DOCSIS 3.1 performance required while meeting the growing capacity demands?"

Topics: Design and Install

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Broadband Subscribers' Self-Installations: Getting it Right First Time

Posted by Dave Daly

A growing number of broadband subscribers are being given the option of installing or reinstalling customer-premises equipment (CPEs) themselves, with the help of self-install kits (SIKs). For the subscriber, this can lead to flexibility, autonomy, and independence when setting up their information and entertainment environments. Sometimes, however, it can lead to problems - and expensive service calls. 

Compared to the first generation of SIKs some twenty years ago, today's options are much improved and standardized. The original SIKs often contained a bewildering array of cables, connectors, and passives, including composite video cables, component video cables, HDMI cable, coax cable, audio, category cable, RF splitters and others. 

The matrix of possibilities was endless and confusing but with the standardization of connection devices for CPEs, the list is now more specific and sophisticated, including usually only coax cable, HDMI and category cable, depending on the services purchased. 

So, how do you make sure self-installations are done properly?

Topics: Design and Install, Broadband

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How Terminating Unused Ports Improves Broadband Network Performance

Posted by Dave Daly

Terminators are simple devices that electrically terminate RF coaxial ports, both inside and outside of the home. The unused tap ports or wall plates in the home can actually create a path for ingress and egress, which affects the network performance.

Low cost terminators have a tendency to fail, due to broken center conductors, moisture / corrosion, or both. Just one of these small devices can actually affect the entire upstream data path for many subscribers within that given area and can create costly service calls and lower the quality of experience.

Case studies have shown that terminating all unused tap ports in an average size node can result in a signal to noise improvement of more than 5db in the return path. Inside the home, electrically terminating unused ports on wall plates or actives and passives blocks ingress in the return path as well. Poor electrical terminations caused by moisture migration create havoc on system performance.

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

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Do you know how far you can bend your microduct and fiber?

Posted by Dave Daly

There is a limit to the bending ratio or tight diameter in a microduct or fiber cable - after which, the fiber starts to exhibit failure. The failure can be a slight increase in insertion loss or a "kink" in the fiber that creates a catastrophic effect.  

One of the challenges of installing fiber in the last drop of an FTTH network is knowing the overall distance and the amount of 90 degree angles you can have in the path you will be using. Distance and 90 degree turns create additional friction and add to the cumulative friction.

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

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Think You're Ready for the FTTx Drop Installation?

Posted by Dave Daly

Take our quiz to find out.

When it comes to actually implementing an FTTx network, there are many details to pay attention to.

Choices have to be made based on landscape topography – there is a big difference between an FTTx drop installation in rural and urban landscapes. Regulatory issues need to be addressed. Technical factors must also be carefully weighed – techniques like cable blowing and pulling only work in certain situations.

It is also critical that customers are not inconvenienced at any point during an FTTx implementation. No customer wants their property to be at the center of a major civil engineering project..

Then there is the matter of cost.

Lastly, it's important to consider whether the solution needs to be future-proof. Some cable can be ripped and replaced. But there are other options, such as direct unducted cable, which, once installed, cannot easily be removed or replaced.

These are just some of the many decisions that have to be made before beginning an FTTx implementation.

Do you think you are ready? Take the quiz below to find out.

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

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Hardline Connectors - Hidden Damage Stalking your Broadband Network?

Posted by Eric Purdy

Having the right hardline connectors is often overlooked when doing node replacements, node splits, or tap replacements in a broadband HFC (hybrid fiber coax) network. Because these connectors are not the most expensive part of a project, there can be a tendency to underestimate the amount of trouble they can cause if they are not properly installed or maintained.

In most HFC architectures today, the nodes are getting closer and closer to the subscriber as fiber slowly replaces coax. As the number of subscribers per node decreases, the number of nodes in a broadband network increases.

During these node splits, you will sometimes have the opportunity to improve existing performance by replacing old connectors with new ones. Each connector in a network may cause a small amount of return and insertion loss in the signal performance. If you haven't accounted for this loss in your network design, you will end up not meeting performance requirements, having poor subscriber experience, and not knowing exactly how to determine what went wrong. 

Topics: Design and Install

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Coaxial headend broadband connectivity – improving the performance

Posted by Dave Daly

The broadband headend environment evolves with the advance of technology and expands to satisfy consumer demand for data service. This poses challenges in many ways – space is at a premium, reliable power is essential, security has to be perfect, and the air has to be kept to specific parameters.

With respect to space, the headend environment has seen a transition from standard RG6 cable to high-quality mini-coaxial cable and connectors that have a smaller footprint, such as MCX-type connector products. So to accommodate technologies from video programming to 2-way digital service - the processing, receiving, and transmitting has to be better as the threshold of services such as DOCSIS 3.1 demands a more stringent network performance.

Topics: Headend, Broadband, Coax

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Building Residential Fiber Networks Faster at a Lower Cost

Posted by Dave Daly

The broadband FTTH market is in its infancy in North America and very little attention has been paid to the last 150’ drop necessary to bring a low fiber count connection into customers’ homes. Currently a broadband operator’s fast ROI lies in business and multi-dwelling unit (MDU) applications. To date, the ROI model for single family units (SFU) doesn’t measure up.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Pushable Fiber, Costs/ROI

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How to Harden Closed Loop HFC Systems for the LTE Band

Posted by Rick Haube

LTE networks operating in the 700 MHz band are becoming widespread across North America and are growing globally as well. Broadband cable and some satellite systems occupy some of the same frequency bands.There have also been frequency auctions in the 600 MHz band - so the allocation of shared frequencies will soon span from 600 MHz – 800 MHz.  

Ideally, none of this should be an issue since the CATV coaxial plant is a closed loop transmission medium - if well-shielded coax is used and connections are tight. But often they are not.

It has been shown that  LTE operators do not deliver services well when coaxial networks "broadcast" signals in the LTE band and, conversely, coaxial networks don't deliver services well when they have LTE ingress, commonly caused by loose connectors and poor shielding performance of coax and passive devices.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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