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PPC blog

5 key skills for successful, safe fiber installations

Posted by Rich Contreras


While there are some similarities between copper and fiber last drop deployments there are also some major differences. If you don’t take these into account, or fail to train your teams properly, you could end up with a project that runs over time, over budget or simply cannot be completed.

So what are the key skills you need to ensure your crews have before starting a fiber installation project? From our experience, there are at least five – although I’m sure there are others, so feel free to add more in the comments below.

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

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Best practice for installing fiber through micro trenching

Posted by Shaun Trezise

When deploying a fiber network, traditional trenching methods can be expensive and time-consuming - and cause extensive disruption to the local area.

In a city, for example, streets have to be closed while they are dug up - annoying residents, drivers and local authorities. Costs for labour, permits and restoration fees are high, adding to budgets and even making some projects uneconomic.

Consequently, many installers are now switching to micro trenching (also known as slot-cut trenching). This offers substantial benefits over traditional methods as it involves using a diamond circular saw to cut a 0.75 - 1.5 inch wide, 4 inch deep trench. Microduct is installed in the bottom of the trench and it is then backfilled and sealed, speeding up the project.

By comparison, traditional trenches are at least 12 inches wide, in order to fit the size of the smallest excavator buckets, and deployments take more passes to backfill. These factors combined mean that micro trenching is typically 60 per cent cheaper than traditional excavations, as well as being much less disruptive to the urban environment.

Topics: Design and Install, Industrial premises, Fiber innovations

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How Ultra HD TV will drive fiber to the home connections

Posted by Joe Byrne

In previous blogs, we’ve looked at what will drive demand for the increased bandwidth that fiber to the home connections provide. One of the biggest drivers is likely to be 4K (also known as Ultra HD) TV.

As the name suggests, 4K TVs deliver four times as much detail as current 1080p full HD sets. That's eight million pixels, compared to two million pixels, so pictures will have much better definition and higher quality.

Ultra HD TVs are selling in increasing numbers. Worldwide sales in Q1 2015 were 4.7 million units - up by 400 per cent, compared to the same quarter in 2014 - according to analysts IHS. That’s against a backdrop of overall TV sales shrinking by two per cent year-on-year. Prices for Ultra HD TV sets are dropping as more and more products hit the market. No wonder that consultancy Futuresource predicts that 4K TV sets will make up 42 per cent of the global market by 2018.

The reason that 4K TV will impact bandwidth needs is simple - in the short to medium term the majority of Ultra HD content will be streamed over the internet. Netflix and Amazon are leading the way, providing TV shows, such as House of Cards, in UItra HD, along with a variety of movies from major studios. In fact, from 2014 all Amazon Studios shows are being shot in 4K. In the UK, BT has just launched an Ultra HD sports channel, the first in Europe. This is showing Premier League football matches and MotoGP motorbike racing.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends, Fiber innovations

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Next generation fiber architectures in cable and telco networks

Posted by David Stockton

In a previous blog I explored the move from GPON to NGPON2 fiber architectures, as telcos look to deliver gigabit speeds to their users. Things have been moving fast in the area of passive optical network (PON) architectures, so this post provides an update on developments and also covers how cable companies are meeting the challenge of providing greater bandwidth to their subscribers.

Cable architectures – DOCSIS 3 and RFoG

First, let’s look at cable companies and their existing fiber architectures. One of the little secrets of the cable industry is that, despite what the marketing might say, the last drop relies on coaxial cable with a copper conductor, rather than fiber to the building itself. While this is designed to deliver better performance than the copper used within the networks of incumbent telcos, it isn’t the full superfast fiber network that some cable companies might have you believe.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber innovations

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Animals - the number one danger to fiber networks

Posted by Joe Byrne

In a previous post I looked at the six biggest causes of damage to fiber networks. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and additional stories, particularly around the havoc that animals can cause when in close proximity to fiber.

I’d like to particularly thank Steve Wolszczak of Midwest Lightwave Inc. who contributed the stories about cows and gophers. There’s more on Steve at the bottom of the blog.  

So here’s a run down of the six most "dangerous" animals for network planners and installers to look out for:

1. Dead cows

It turns out that dead livestock can cause even more damage to fiber networks than living and breathing ones. The reason? When fiber networks were originally installed through ranching country, deploying the fiber in dry weather could create a scar in the ground. Cattle could easily break a leg in these ruts, forcing ranchers to put them down. While that didn’t endear fiber installers to the farmers, the real issue was that cows tended to be buried on the spot to avoid the spread of disease and discourage predators. This led to ranchers digging a hole with their tractors, taking out the fiber network itself.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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Installing aerial fiber – what are the options?

Posted by Shaun Trezise


In previous blogs we’ve covered the factors involved in choosing between an aerial or buried fiber deployment, as well as the different types of installation methods. This post looks at the deployment itself – what are the options and what is best practice for a successful install?

Essentially, deployment can be either through the stationary or moving reel placing method – but before deciding on which is best for the particular project, follow this checklist:

  • Carry out a full route survey, and make sure that representatives of each organisation potentially affected by the installation are present.
  • Ensure that the right-of-way is free of obstacles, like guy wires and trees.
  • Gain permission from any property owners and relevant authorities if you need to set up any equipment on private land.
  • Make sure you have a properly trained and certified crew. They’ll need to be competent when working at heights, and have the right permits if working near power cables. Also, aim to employ experienced linemen that understand the aerial environment and its particular challenges.
  • Make sure all of the necessary environmental checks and provisions are addressed, including accounting for wind and ice loads, galloping and vibration. 

Topics: Design and Install, Costs/ROI, Industrial premises

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Ireland’s National Broadband Plan – the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Posted by Paul Ryan


Most of us know the story "The Emperor’s New Clothes" - Hans Christian Andersen’s fable where a foolish monarch is convinced that an invisible suit is the latest fashion, and parades in the nude before his subjects.

What people might not know is that the ending was tweaked while the story was at the printers – going from general admiration of the monarch’s new sartorial elegance by the populace, to a plaintive child’s cry of: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” 

There has been a similar reaction to the Irish Government’s recent proposals for its National Broadband Plan (NBP) published this month. This sets a minimum of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload speeds for all users – a very low bar, according to many observers, such as the Irish Times, particularly as this has been described as a "once and for all solution".

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

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The importance of field trials to fiber installations

Posted by Rich Contreras


The equipment you choose for your fiber deployment is crucial to whether it succeeds or fails. This is particularly true when it comes to the fiber cable and microduct you use for your fiber to the home (FTTH) installations. What can look perfect in the catalogue and at the planning stage can turn out to be difficult to work with, not up to specification, or to be prone to breakages.

All of this adds to time and labor costs. Multiply the expense by the potentially hundreds of last drop FTTH deployments you are making and it can dramatically impact the profitability and return on investment of your network.
 
Therefore, for major fiber installations it is good practice to only select a cable and/or microduct after having carried out a field trial, where you see how it works under real conditions. Just like test driving a car, this provides your technicians with the chance to try before committing to purchase. This may seem like adding an extra step (and time) to your process, but the fact is that field trials, run properly, will reduce costs in the long term by providing you with the best product fit for your needs.
 
So how should you best organize a trial and what are the benefits you’ll receive?

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

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Reducing friction in fiber microducts to speed blowing deployments

Posted by Tom Carpenter

When it comes to deploying fiber, network planners have the options of blowing, pulling or pushing the cable. Each of these methods has different strengths and weaknesses, as we’ve covered in previous blogs.

Generally, for the last drop pulling or pushing delivers the fastest, most efficient deployment - without needing to spend time setting up expensive and potentially messy blowing machines.

However, as you move towards the network backbone and, consequently, have to cover longer distances, blowing becomes a more feasible option - particularly if you have already invested in the equipment and skills needed to deploy it effectively.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Data/Statistics, Costs/ROI

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Mixing fiber and power lines in aerial fiber deployments

Posted by Shaun Trezise


The last mile of Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and Fiber to the Cabinet (FTTC) aerial fiber deployments often run through crowded environments, where space is at a premium. Street lights, existing telephone poles, power lines, street signs, buildings and trees all jostle for position, especially in urban areas.

Plotting a route through these obstacles can be difficult and time-consuming, adding to cost and disruption. Installing new infrastructure (such as aerial poles) can be prohibitively expensive - or it can be difficult to get the relevant permissions from local authorities to erect them if that means closing roads. 

The key properties of ADSS cables

One way round this is to install aerial fiber cables close to power lines, such as on mixed use poles which also carry electricity. Obviously, these fiber cables need to be resistant to electricity, which can be difficult as many aerial cables contain high tensile steel (HTS) for tensile strength, or aluminum barriers to protect the optical fiber from crushing forces.

And, of course, they still have to meet all same criteria as other aerial cables, with the ability to cope with extreme weather conditions such as wind, ice and snow - as well as withstanding damage from birds and other animals over very long service lifetimes.

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

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