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PPC blog

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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The six biggest causes of damage to fiber networks

Posted by Joe Byrne

No matter how well a fiber installation is planned and deployed, and how strong the cable you use, you can’t completely guard against problems down the line. Whether it is acts of God, extreme weather or just an old woman with a spade, fiber networks can be disrupted by factors outside your control.

Based on our own experiences here are the top six culprits for causing fiber damage:

1. Animals

From squirrels to rats and rabbits, rodents like to chew whatever they can find. Squirrels seem to show a particular liking for fiber cables - in 2011, Time Warner Cable had to replace 87 miles of cable in Western New York, due to squirrel chews. Across the Atlantic, rats knocked out internet access for Virgin Media customers in parts of Scotland after attacking cables twice in two days.

Meanwhile in the Rockies, bears can be a problem if cables are small enough to fit between their jaws. More exotically, Indian engineers complain about monkeys eating fiber – a particular issue around temples dedicated to the animals. Why can’t they just stick to peanuts and bananas?

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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An introduction to fiber cable pushing machines

Posted by Dave Stockton

Since they were first introduced in the 1980s, optical fiber cables have dramatically shrunk in size. A 96 fiber cable can now weigh 30kg/km (down from 300kg/km) and have a diameter of 7mm, compared to 20mm for first generation cables.

Similarly, 12 fiber drop cables used to connect individual FTTH customers now weigh less than 10kg/km and have a diameter of 1-3mm. These are normally installed into microducts, which typically range in outside diameter size from 3-18mm.

This leads to new challenges for installers when it comes to equipment. Previously cables would have been installed with heavy equipment, such as winches and capstans, or heavy compressors and blowing heads. However, this has four big disadvantages in the last drop:

1. People
It requires multiple operators, pushing up costs.

2. Disruption and mess
Customers don’t want bulky equipment in their buildings or apartments, particularly if it damages their homes.

3. Equipment cost
Operators need to invest in buying or hiring expensive machines to carry out installations.

4. Time
While the cable install itself may not take long, setting up (and dismantling machines) is time-consuming, limiting the number of installs that can be completed in a day.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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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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Delivering in-building fiber - without disruption

Posted by Rich Contreras


Whether through streaming HD content from the internet or accessing "traditional"’ TV programmes online, consumers are widening the ways in which they watch films and TV shows.

Fiber provides the perfect network to transport even the most bandwidth-intensive content into subscribers' living rooms, providing the ability for it to be watched on TVs, tablets, phones or computers.

Consumers understand this, which is why fiber networks are becoming more and more popular around the world.

Real estate companies are increasingly reflecting this demand by ensuring that their apartment buildings and condominiums can support the latest technology through fiber networks.

Installing a state of the art in-building fiber network helps attract and retain tenants and can differentiate against similar properties in the area.

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

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Building a national fiber backbone in Africa

Posted by Tim Gigg


Many of us have experience of deploying fiber in the US and Europe, and know how tough that can be. However, installing fiber in Africa has its own unique challenges, as I found out when I worked at Ghana Telecom for two years after it was acquired by Vodafone.

Having never worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, I thought it would be a great challenge and opportunity, and was delighted when I got the job. Arriving was an experience in itself.

For those who have never been to Sub-Saharan Africa, it is difficult to convey the impact of arriving and stepping off the plane into 36 degrees Celsius; taking in your first impressions while your senses are assaulted by the noise, heat, and environment.

You are either hooked or can’t wait for the return flight. Fortunately, I was in the first camp. 

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

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Why GPON needs to change - introducing NGPON2

Posted by Dave Stockton


When deciding the best fiber architecture for their network, planners have to make the choice between point to point (P2P) or a passive optical network (PON).

Both have strengths and weaknesses, as we covered in a previous blog

The majority of network operators have invested in GPON and GEPON architectures.

However, since they’ve been installed, predicted bandwidth needs have increased dramatically, meaning that they now need to change.

Consequently, much work has been done in creating a successor to GPON and GEPON, ensuring that PON architectures are able to underpin future, higher capacity networks.

After a false start along the way, the new NGPON2 standard, created by the FSAN group, looks set to achieve this.

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

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Installing fiber and preserving history at Denver University

Posted by Dan Patuto


One of the toughest implementations to manage successfully can be when installing fiber at a Brownfield site, as we recently found at Denver University in Colorado.

Often crews won’t know what is already in place, making it difficult to plan, and forcing installers to think on their feet and reroute cables to fit into the available space.

The difficulty is compounded when buildings have been constructed before the 1930s - a time when building codes were more relaxed (or non-existent). Wherever they are located in the US, most of these don’t have integral ducts, and no-one currently employed has any knowledge of the structural details of how they were built. Spaces are normally cramped, leading to fiber being routed through multiple 90 degree bends to reach its destination. 

Adding to the potential headache, many buildings will have already been retrofitted with telephone or power cables after they were built, and the plans may not be available. Finally, particularly for older buildings, the aesthetics cannot be disturbed, so the installation has to respect the existing fabric, which may be structurally fragile by now.

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

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Picking the right fiber connector – PC, UPC or APC

Posted by Shaun Trezise

I wrote a blog post last year on the different types of connectors available, which sparked a great deal of  feedback and discussion, demonstrating how important the whole topic is to both fiber installers and network planners alike.

Thanks again to everyone around the world that contributed, both directly on the PPC's blog and through various social groups.

To recap, I covered SC, LC, FC, ST and MTP/MPO connectors, and looking through the comments I thought it would be beneficial to focus on one area that the original post deliberately didn’t cover - the differences between Angled Physical Contact (APC) and Ultra Physical Contact (UPC) connectors.

Beside one having a green body and the other being colored blue, the different ways they both treat light is crucial in planning a network, as several readers pointed out.

To help us understand all this jargon, let’s look back at why the original Flat Fiber Connector evolved into the Physical Contact (PC) connector and then onto UPC and APC.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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