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PPC blog

Installing broadband service - getting it right the first time

Posted by Esther Wise

99% isn’t good enough! The cable industry is changing rapidly, with consumers increasingly demanding greater capacity so that they can download and stream video entertainment and adopt new cloud-based services.

In order to deliver the increased capacity per subscriber, it is vital to keep out moisture and maintain the drop plant to insure optimal signal transmission. The plant and connectors must be tight to keep signal levels within the range for the customer premises equipment (CPE), while automated testing catches many issues early in the installation process. It’s the craft errors and the intermittent issues that create havoc.

These pressures are only going to increase. DOCSIS 3.1 requires even more stringent efforts to produce a flawless drop plant and new technology leaps. Ultra HD and MoCA will also raise the performance threshold of service delivery.

So how can we guard against issues such as digital pixilation and slow/no data speed - the two largest reasons those subscribers call the service desk?

Topics: Design and Install, Costs/ROI

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Why the Smart Home needs fiber to the home connectivity

Posted by Tom Carpenter

One of the questions asked about fiber to the home (FTTH) networks is simple – what are the applications that will need the high capacity and speed that they offer? And how can operators increase revenues around FTTH by providing new services that will differentiate them from their competitors?

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the impact that streaming 4K TV services will have on bandwidth needs. In this post, I want to talk about the rise of Smart Homes and how this will impact the operator.

There’s a lot of talk about the Smart Home (particularly around the Internet of Things) – it was one of the key themes of this year’s FTTH Council Europe conference in Luxembourg, for example. 

So, what is it and why does it matter?

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends

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Understanding optical loss in fiber networks - and how to tackle it

Posted by Shaun Trezise

Optical fiber is a fantastic medium for propagating light signals, and it rarely needs amplification in contrast to copper cables. High-quality single mode fiber will often exhibit attenuation (loss of power) as low as 0.1dB per kilometer.

Power or strength of the signal (measured in dB), will always be higher at the head end or central office of the network connection than at the customer end, as it’s impossible not to incur some degradation of light over the length of the network connection. If the impact is too great then performance suffers, so understanding and measuring these losses is a critical part of network installation and testing.

For network planners, the bulk of the loss budget is spent between the final node and the customer’s network terminal. Splitters add significant loss to this part of the network - far greater than fiber connectors and other passive components. When measuring the attenuation effects of these components, we use the terms insertion loss (IL) and return loss (RL).

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

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The challenges of deploying fiber alongside coax

Posted by Peter Carapella

In a more and more competitive market, cable operators are increasingly looking to deploy fiber alongside coax services to their subscribers. This delivers the best of both worlds – coax provides a known, well-understood connection that is proven to handle standard TV and voice calls, while fiber delivers the superfast broadband performance that consumers are now demanding for high-speed internet access and media streaming.

There is now much greater competition between cable, fixed-line and cellular operators, leading to consolidation and a need for companies to differentiate themselves. The need to supply increasing capacity per subscriber is accomplished by deploying advanced technologies and fiber deeper into the network. Therefore, adding fiber to the premises (FTTP) to their existing coax offering allows cable operators to deliver new, additional products and services, retain existing customers and win new ones.

However, it also brings new challenges, particularly around the installation and cost-effective maintenance of two different technologies. There are four key issues that operators and installers need to overcome when deploying fiber alongside coax:

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

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Meeting the multi dwelling unit fiber challenge

Posted by Simon Roberts

The combination of greater urbanization and pressure on space means that more and more of the global population is now living in multi dwelling units (MDUs), such as apartment blocks. This adds another level of complexity for operators looking to deploy fiber to the home (FTTH)/fiber to the premises (FTTP) networks. Not only do they have to cost-effectively connect the building itself, but they also need to deliver fiber to paying customers within the building, in a timely and efficient manner. MDUs also come in all shapes and sizes, from multi-story apartment blocks with hundreds of tenants, to low rise buildings with much smaller numbers of occupants.

This was the challenge that faced Liquid Telecom when it came to deploying fiber to Kenyan capital Nairobi. Liquid Telecom is building Africa’s largest single fiber network, currently stretching over 18,000km across Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, and into South Africa. It delivers the highest quality FTTH services, with customers benefiting from speeds in excess of 100Mbps.

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

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Nielsen’s Law and what it means for fiber networks

Posted by Tom Carpenter

Most people have heard of Moore’s Law, which broadly states that the number of transistors on a silicon chip will double every two years, with a corresponding increase in computing performance. This has proved true over the 50 plus years' life of the Law, contributing to huge improvements in technology, regarding speed, size, and cost.

A lesser known theory is Nielsen’s Law, which applies similar thinking to network speeds. First quantified by Jakob Nielsen in 1998, it states that the bandwidth available to high-end broadband connections will grow by 50 per cent every year, leading to a 57x compound growth in capacity in a decade. The fact that it still holds true over 15 years later shows the strength of the model.

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

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The importance of testing in fiber network deployments

Posted by Rich Contreras

Connecting a building to a fiber or coax network can be extremely complex. When planning the deployment, you need to take into account the environmental and topographical conditions, select the best installation methodology, and choose the right equipment for the job.

Then you have to implement the plan, essentially carrying out a civil engineering project to ensure the cable successfully reaches its destination. This can involve re-using existing ducts or creating completely new paths into, and then around, buildings.

However, this is not the end of the job, and perhaps the most vital part is yet to come – testing. This not only enables you to check that the connection works correctly, but, most importantly, that it is reliable, meets relevant industry standards, and is acceptable to the network owner. This should be required on all installs, even if the network owner hasn’t mandated it.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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VECTOR – the end to field-fit connector issues?

Posted by Shaun Trezise

Fitting connectors to fiber optic cables in the field is a complex and highly specialized task. It is easy for dust and dirt to contaminate connectors, blocking the optical signal and leading to light loss, reducing power and efficiency. It is also a delicate process requiring dexterity and high attention to detail. In some instances, the cable has to be scrapped, and the process started again if the fiber performance is not satisfactory.

Consequently, field splicing connectors has become a highly specialized art, requiring highly skilled staff armed with expensive fiber splicing equipment. As fiber network rollouts accelerate, this approach is simply no longer adequate to meet operator needs for speed, efficiency, and cost-effective deployments.

Finding skilled staff can be expensive, particularly in developing countries or for new market entrants - yet there is a need to minimize installation time and operating expenses around deployments.

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

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PON fiber systems branch again with XGS-PON

Posted by Dave Stockton

In a previous blog I looked at the strong case for NGPON2, a fiber system which offers a minimum of 40 Gb/s aggregate downstream bandwidth, spread across four wavelengths, and a total upstream rate of 10 Gb/s. This successor to the lower capacity GPON system, NGPON2 is a composite Time- and Wavelength-Division Multiplexed Passive Optical Network (TWDM PON) system which uses time division as well as wavelength division multiplexing.

In that way it differed profoundly from the largely stalled NGPON1 system which solely used time division multiplexing. NGPON2 offered an immediate upgrade path to capacity of 80 Gb/s downstream and 20 Gb/s upstream. In comparison NGPON1 was limited to a one-off 4x capacity increase over GPON, but at significant capital cost.

The advantages of composite PON networks

TWDM PON systems offer great flexibility and scalability but the NGPON2 embodiment comes at a price, since it uses tunable lasers at the Optical Line Terminal (OLT) and tunable filters at the customer Optical Network Unit (ONU). This adds to cost and complexity.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Fiber innovations

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Combining cable in duct and aerial for fiber deployments

Posted by Simon Roberts

Operators normally aim to standardize on a single fiber deployment methodology to simplify installations and reduce time to market. However, sometimes it isn’t possible to take this approach as terrain and other factors are too varied for a one-size-fits-all solution.

When extending its Pan-African fiber network to Rwanda, this is exactly the issue that Liquid Telecom faced. Liquid is building Africa’s largest single fiber network, currently stretching over 18,000km across Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho and into South Africa. Customers benefit from fiber to the home (FTTH) speeds in excess of 100Mbps.

Diverse natural surroundings mean that the challenges of installing FTTH in the suburbs of capital Kigali and the surrounding countryside require very different solutions. To meet these needs, Liquid Telecom has pioneered a toolbox approach to deployment, combining cable in duct FTTH with a tree and branch aerial solution. This provides the ability to select the best network design on a case-by-case basis, while ensuring the integration of these designs into the overall network.

Spurring from its Pan-African backbone, Liquid aimed to deliver up to 100Mbps connection speeds to its Rwandan customers. As with any FTTH network, the key to success is being first to market, meaning that speed was of the essence, without any sacrifice on quality and performance. Furthermore, Liquid Telecom had to implement its fiber network via installers that were used to handling copper.

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

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