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PPC blog

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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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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4 questions to ask when installing fiber in multiple dwelling units

Posted by Rich Contreras


As the pace of fiber to the premises (FTTP) deployments increases, operators face a different challenge – successfully installing fiber within multiple dwelling units (MDUs), such as apartment buildings, offices, and hotels.

What makes this task difficult is that MDU is a whole new concept for many operators – particularly when installing fiber in existing buildings, with congested ducts. Most older buildings didn’t plan for future upgrades to technology such as fiber, limiting the space even more in these scenarios.

Every implementation is different, so to help planners and crews, here are four questions you should ask before beginning the process: 

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

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The use of shared infrastructure to deploy fiber networks

Posted by Dave Stockton


Telecoms planners and installers know that new fiber network build costs are dominated by civils works (the installation of basic infrastructure into or above the ground).

The proportion of the build cost varies enormously, depending on circumstances such as the population density, projected uptake, urban or rural environment, and other local factors. Additionally, new in-ground techniques (slot cutting, directional drilling, and mole ploughing) can dramatically cut these costs.

However, where possible, planners aiming to reduce costs will try and remove the need for new civils builds altogether. One way to achieve this is to move into the world of shared infrastructure, sometimes known as "parasitic" technology.

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

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The Fiber Awakens: comparing Star Wars and fiber communications

Posted by Dan Jenkins


A long time ago, in a network far, far away an epic battle took place between a powerful Empire and a band of freedom-loving rebels... 

This week’s launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, got me thinking about the similarities between George Lucas’ films and the world of high-speed fiber communications.

Here are six areas that sprang to mind:

1. The changing fortunes of war/implementations

After early success destroying the Death Star, the rebels are pushed back, with their base on Hoth destroyed and their forces scattered across the universe. Yet, they regroup and take on the new Death Star, ultimately defeating the Emperor and Darth Vader.

These changing fortunes are pretty similar to Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networking. It started with lots of promise and high-profile deployments. But at the beginning of the new Millennium progress slowed, as the copper Empire struck back, only to accelerate again over the last couple of years as the technology went mainstream. Could the defeat of the Empire be in sight?

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Market trends

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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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How fiber and wireless networks are converging

Posted by Dave Stockton


At first sight, a mobile network and a modern, optical fiber-rich, fixed line network have little in common. They might be seen as competitors. After all, we hear regular stories of consumers "cutting the cord" and meeting all their voice and basic data needs with their smartphones.

In fact, the opposite is true - the growth in data volumes that need to be transmitted quickly around the "mobile" core network cannot generally be met through mobile technologies.

Essentially, this means that the core of a mobile network is made up of fixed line, usually fiber, connections.

The anatomy of a wireless network

Before we look at how fiber and wireless networks complement each other, it is worth taking a step back to look at wireless technology overall. Mobile phones transmit and receive signals in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, specifically in the region 872 to 960, 1710 to 1875 and 1920 to 2170 MHz in the UK. Just below that frequency range TV broadcasts are carried and at higher microwave frequencies radar, satellite communication, and specialized applications operate.

This means there is limited capacity for onwards transmission of mobile telephony or data over the electromagnetic spectrum, even if it were to be a technically efficient medium.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install, Market trends, Industrial premises

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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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4 factors that influence how long your fiber network will last

Posted by David Stockton

When deploying a fiber network, one of the key factors used to calculate ROI is how long it will operate. After all, some copper networks have lasted 140 years in the UK, even if they can’t necessarily meet today’s high-speed broadband needs in their current form.

Optical fiber is inherently more fragile than copper. It is a particular type of glass (fused silica), with a typical tensile strength that is less than half that of copper. However, even though fused silica looks, and can feel, fragile and brittle, if correctly processed, tested and used it has proven to be immensely durable.

To assess the durability of any material it’s useful to consider certain attributes:

  • Initial strength
  • Rate of degradation
  • Any flaws that can weaken it
  • Reagents that can weaken it
  • Its optical lifetime - as the silica must still be able to function satisfactorily 

With this is mind, there are essentially four factors that will affect the longevity of your fiber network: 

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Market trends

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