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PPC blog

The last drop - agility for the next twenty years

Posted by Shaun Trezise


The last drop of a subscriber communications network - from the node or tap to the home (also known as the "drop network") - has traditionally been designed apart from the rest of the network. At this point, the signal - and the medium that carries it - has very different conditions and requirements than the other parts of the network; it is where the network leaves the sky or ground and enters into our homes.

This part of the network can be hard to change or to work with because of its existing connections and its very immediate impact on our customers' experiences. Making plans and decisions about the drop network involves different criteria and considerations than the rest of the network.

What is happening in the "drop"? 

The drop network is more and more burdened every year. The wide acceptance of HD content by consumers demands much higher and better quality capacity per user. OTT cloud based services require interactive and high quality capacity. All these raise the bar for the technology for connecting to the homes/rooms of customers. And this is before the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as sensors, security cameras, and other products that will all use the same broadband connection. In addition, soon full duplex DOCSIS 3.1 could deliver symmetrical speeds of 10 Gbit/s over a coax connection. 

Topics: Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI

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The challenge of delivering fiber to multiple dwelling units

Posted by Shaun Trezise


Over half of the world’s population lives in units of 100+. In cities this figure can be even higher. This concentration and variety creates a challenge for operators looking to install fiber to the home (FTTH) connections. Essentially, mutliple dwelling units (MDUs) are like snowflakes - no two are the same, meaning that each one has to be handled as a separate, complex civil engineering project.

Adding to this complexity, the vast majority of these buildings were constructed before fiber networks were even thought of, meaning they aren’t designed to accommodate standard fiber connections. 83% of US MDUs were built before 2000, and over half (52%) before 1980. So there is often no obvious way to route fiber to individual apartments.

Building owners and their tenants want the speed of fiber, but are less keen on any disruption or damage it might bring. 30% of consumers that sign up for FTTH service change their minds when an installation technician asks if he can drill holes in the wall and run cables along it.

So how can operators make their deployments cost-effective and keep consumers and building owners happy? There are five key rules to follow:

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

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6 ways to reduce FTTH implementation costs

Posted by Tom Carpenter

As operators increasingly focus on deploying fiber to the home (FTTH) across their networks, they are looking at how they can minimize deployment costs, and therefore increase their return on investment. From our experience of working with FTTH installations across the globe, we see six ways of reducing FTTH implementation costs, while ensuring high quality, reliable connections. 

1. Eliminating blowing

Traditional fiber backbone networks can stretch for miles and, therefore, require expensive blowing equipment to propel the cable through duct. This type of equipment simply isn’t needed on FTTH last drops. Instead, crews can quickly complete last drop connections by pushing or pulling cables, even around tight corners. For more complex or longer installs, pushing can be aided by simple, cost-effective handheld blowing machines, or pulled through the duct using a pre-attached pull cord. Pushing or pulling reduces equipment costs and install time.

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

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The economic impact of fiber to the home

Posted by Paul Ekpenyong


In our digitally connected world, consumers increasingly require high speed broadband in their homes, whether for leisure, work, education or keeping in contact with friends and family. This means that when they are looking to move, particularly in the countryside, the presence and speed of internet connectivity is one of the factors that they take into account when buying a house.

No wonder that US research for the FTTH Council Americas found that having a fiber broadband connection increased property prices by 3.1% - the equivalent of adding a new fireplace or half of a new bathroom. Those properties with 1 Gbps connections sold for an average of 7% more than those with broadband of 25 Mbps or lower.

In the UK, property websites all now include broadband speeds, and newspaper property supplements highlight rural areas where fiber is being installed as potential hotspots that will see an increase in value. While much of this is fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) connectivity, there are a growing number of independent companies offering full fiber to the home (FTTH) services, ranging from local co-operatives and community groups to new operators.

Rolling out FTTH across the country, not just within major cities is delivering benefits in four main areas:

Topics: Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI, Market trends

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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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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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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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The benefits of plug and play for last drop fiber deployments

Posted by Joe Byrne


Fiber to the home (FTTH) deployments
are set to ramp up significantly over the next two years. Especially in the US, we are now moving from the early adoption phase into the early majority phase of this market.

This means operators face two competing pressures. They need to connect up new subscribers cost-effectively but also need to move fast if they are to grow their business by being the first to offer FTTH in a neighborhood. First-mover advantage is the best way to stop your competitors from muscling in on your market penetration.

This puts the spotlight on the last drop connection - often the most complex and time-consuming part of the network rollout and, consequently, the most expensive on a per-foot basis. What makes it expensive? The vast majority (up to 70 per cent) of the cost of these connections is labor. Therefore, anything that reduces labor time and expense will help meet the cost and speed pressures described above.

However, how can operators reduce these labor costs and increase deployment speeds, without impacting quality or customer service?

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

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8 decisions operators need to make for FTTH deployment success

Posted by Simon Roberts


When rolling out a new fiber to the home (FTTH) network operators have to take into account multiple factors, including potential demand, deployment difficulty and cost.

However, when they have reached the point of greenlighting the project and begin to plan their FTTH network, there are further decisions to make. These choices can be the difference between a successful or failed project.

Based on my experience working with operators across the world, but particularly in Africa, I'd highlight eight decisions that you should pay particular attention to.

1. Deployment model

Do you take the route of outsourcing FTTH deployment to a third party or do you manage the project yourself? Ultimately, this comes down to two factors - do you have the right combination of skills in-house and how much control do you want over the process?

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

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The importance of cleanliness to successful fiber installations

Posted by Shaun Trezise


Deploying fiber in the field is often a dirty job. Installing in new buildings means working on a construction site, with all the mud, dust, and rainwater that this entails. Digging trenches for fiber ducts adds to the mess, and a sudden storm can turn the whole site into a quagmire

It isn’t necessarily much cleaner indoors, with deployments in existing buildings subject to dust and debris from the installation methods needed to create space for fiber, such as drilling into ceilings and walls.

There are three key reasons that all this dirt and contamination is an issue during fiber installations:

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

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