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PPC blog

Successfully creating African fiber to the home networks

Posted by Simon Roberts


Deploying an entirely new fiber network, while meeting tough budget constraints - all within tight timescales - is a challenge for any operator. Add in demanding environmental conditions and the job becomes even harder. 

That’s the scenario that Liquid Telecom faced in Zimbabwe. 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.

The award-winning Pan-African fiber network covers the continent’s fastest growing economies, where limited fixed networks previously existed. It delivers the highest quality fiber to the home (FTTH) services, with customers benefiting from speeds in excess of 100Mbps.

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

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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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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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The mechanics of aerial fiber cable

Posted by Shaun Trezise

With a plethora of aerial fiber cable products on the market today it can be difficult to differentiate and fully appreciate why one construction is or isn’t more suitable than another.

This blog aims to outline the different options once you’ve decided to go down the aerial route – for a more detailed look at the factors affecting the choice of aerial deployments take a look at this previous post.

Taking a very broad overview of the aerial installation solutions presently available, there are two distinct approaches: either installing fiber into an aerial drop tube or microduct, or deploying a stand-alone self-supporting cable.

Normally the fiber-in-duct approach will require two installation phases, whereas the self-supporting aerial cable route can be deployed in one stage. From this you’d assume that the self-supporting cable solution reduces labour costs.

But this is actually not the case, so let’s delve deeper and further subdivide these two options into two more, assessing each for the total cost outlay, installation time and applicability in different areas of a fiber network.

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

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What is pushable fiber and why do we need it?

Posted by Joe Byrne


When it comes to deploying fiber networks, installers and planners face multiple challenges. This is particularly true when it comes to the last drop section, between the curb and the premises, or inside buildings themselves. The natural landscape and the built environment vary between deployments, which makes every install a standalone civil engineering project that requires planning, skill and experience to deliver.

Time is money, so deployments need to be carried out as quickly as possible – without compromising quality, reliability or upsetting home or business owners.

Traditional methods of installing fiber (blowing or pulling) are not well suited to the demands of the last drop. This has led to the emergence of pushable fiber – a relatively new way of meeting deployment challenges.

This blog looks at what pushable fiber is, its advantages and why it is needed.

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

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Picking the best fiber installation partner: why it starts with an RFP

Posted by Tom Carpenter

When creating a fiber network, even the best laid plans can be upset by deployment issues. While some of these, such as unexpected weather or unforeseen environmental problems can’t be legislated against, many factors can be controlled through good planning, and in particular by providing a clear, well-structured Request for Proposal (RFP).

Consequently, in this article I want to outline the four key steps to writing and issuing a successful RFP,  vital in helping you choose the best fiber installation partner for your project. Get it right and both the network planner and the installer have a strong platform to work to, which makes it easier to cope with any unforeseen problems if they occur.

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

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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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Joining fiber cable – what are the options?

Posted by John Dawson

However well you plan your installation, fiber cable is rarely the right length for each run, and is inherently difficult to join. Consequently, cables have to be connected or cut in the field, with the potential issues this entails. This blog post looks at the various options available to installers for responding to these issues; from splicing and field-fit connectors to factory-terminated or pre-connectorization.

1. Splicing in the field

When fiber was first deployed, it was mechanically spliced, meaning that fibers were butted together as tightly as possible and then mechanically encapsulated. Due to the potential for signal loss and poor reliability this was soon superseded by fusion splicing. This offers the best quality connection of all in-field options in that the fiber ends are lined up and welded together. No excess cable is left over when the process is complete.

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

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Gigabit networks - what are the future options for copper and fiber?

Posted by Dave Stockton

It is one of life’s ironies that the equipment used to establish ultra-fast communication links, the telecommunications fixed network, has lived up to its name and remained fixed for several decades. The traditional metallic conductor-based ‘tree and branch’ architecture forms the basis of most telcos main networks. It has gradually evolved and provided more capacity, from basic 64 kbit/s telephony through dial-up ‘broadband’ to genuine broadband via wholly copper links (ADSL and ADSL2).

These systems nearly always use copper conductor cables that have remained largely unchanged for over 30 years. VDSL (also known as Fiber to the Cabinet) however started a change that used optical fiber to a deep cabinet (i.e. one near a customer group) to step up capacity, from the approximately 20 Mb/s ADSL limit to a figure nearer 100 Mb/s.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Fiber to the home, Costs/ROI, Fiber innovations

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