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PPC blog

Harnessing military skills for fiber cable roll outs

Posted by Tim Gigg

As Britain and the United States cut back on defence spending, the British Army will reduce the size of its trained-strength force from 101,210 in 2012 to 82,000 regular personnel by 2018. Additionally, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy are each losing about 5,000 staff. Meanwhile, the US Army is shrinking from 520,000 to 450,000 with the USAAF and US Navy also shedding jobs.

To put this in perspective, when I left the British Army in 1998, we had double that number. Now we don’t have enough soldiers to fill our national football stadium at Wembley – there would still be 8,000 seats free for the opposition.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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Is the plan for Irish fiber broadband about to get stuck in a ditch?

Posted by Paul Ryan

The Irish government has announced an ambitious National Broadband Plan (NBP) to intervene in the provision of broadband services covering 700,000 homes and businesses in rural areas. At best, the locations identified by the Government today have only very basic, if any, broadband services and commercial networks have no plans to provide them with high speed broadband.

Whilst the scheme is not specifically targeting fiber broadband, by implication most observers believe that the tender requirements dictate a fiber solution. The NBP aims to definitively address Ireland’s connectivity challenge by removing existing cost barriers, preventing commercial operators from providing high speed services to end users across the entire country.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home, Regulatory/Policy

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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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Bringing fiber to Africa – reporting from Angola

Posted by Del Jeffery

Across Africa, the deployment of high speed networks is accelerating, with the continent part-way through a connectivity transformation. The landing of submarine cables around the African coast has provided high capacity links to the Internet, but networks are needed to connect inland areas to these hubs. Additionally, a growing percentage of the population relies on mobile phones, not just to make calls but also to bank, shop and access the Internet, leading to a requirement for cost-effective data backhaul.

The market need

Both high speed broadband and backhaul networks for mobile operators increasingly rely on fiber. Previous deployments of copper-based networks had cost advantages, but in many places problems with bad terminations and cable theft have led to outages, meaning that fiber is becoming the solution of choice.

Across Africa fiber is now the preferred carrier of backhaul services with SDH, DWDM and MPLS deployed for protected services and FTTx, FWA, GPON and microwave radio being the preferred methods for last mile deployments.

Topics: Fiber to the premises, Design and Install

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The seven deadly sins of fiber cable installations

Posted by Rich Contreras

When planning, installing or updating a fiber network there are multiple issues that can push up cost and complexity. Many of these only manifest themselves when you actually visit the deployment site, see what existing infrastructure is in place and how you need to work with it. Whether it is completely congested ducts, rat’s nests of existing cables or poorly protected fiber connections, here are the top seven issues that we’ve come across when helping carry out implementations across the world.

1. Poor quality fiber cable protection

Fiber is inherently fragile, and many lower cost/poorer quality cables don’t provide much additional protection. This is particularly true when deployed in outside environments, where factors such as wind, rain and ultraviolet radiation from the sun can all cause protection tubing to fail, exposing cables to the elements. At the same time some cheaper protection tubes cannot be handled easily, as minimal force will cause them to break. In contrast higher quality versions can be clipped directly to walls such is their inherent strength.

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

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Choosing the right fiber cable to meet the National Electrical Code

Posted by Dave Stockton

In a previous blog, I looked at Standards Organizations, what they do and how they relate to each other. As a follow up this post looks at how installers can meet the specific US National Electrical Code (NEC) regulations by choosing the right fiber cable, and which standards to follow for individual deployments.

The US NEC covers building wiring requirements and is revised and reissued every 3 years, with NEC 2014 the current edition. It lists cables by their application, in line with the relevant ANSI, UL or CSA tests.

Article 770 and UL 1651 testing

For the fiber industry the key part of the NEC is article 770, which covers the installation of optical fiber cables and raceways in public and private buildings. There are exclusions for certain parts of specific industries such as mining, railways and electrical generation where the code doesn’t apply.

In UL 1651 the code identifies the following types of in-building optical fiber cables:

Topics: Design and Install, 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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Successfully installing fiber in complex outside plant environments

Posted by Richard Wragg

We live in a world that relies on real-time information, and fiber optic networks are critical to transmitting this data at the speed of light. This is as true in industrial and outside plant environments as in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) deployments. Installing fiber networks in industrial settings is extremely complex, with challenges around space, limited potential routes and a need to protect fragile fiber against dust, dirt, damage and vibration.

Fiber for railroad signaling

The perfect example of this is a recent fiber deployment we worked on with a major US railway operator. It was within one of their largest yards, where fiber for signaling systems was being completely replaced. This was a mission-critical communications system for the railroad – without it the yard simply couldn’t operate, with a dramatic impact on the company’s entire operations. In such a tough environment, fiber has to cope with vibration from passing trains, changing climatic conditions and accidental damage from employees and equipment.

Topics: Design and Install, vertical markets

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Closing the loop – factors in choosing the right fiber closure

Posted by Dave Stockton

Closures are the housings which contain and protect the individual joints in any fiber system, as opposed to fiber joining (fusion splicing, connectorization and mechanical splicing), which are covered in this separate blog. Given how fragile fiber is, and the potential need to upgrade cables, good quality closures are vital to a successful installation. But what is a closure and what should you be looking for when choosing one?

Types of closures

Basic Closures

At its simplest, a closure joins one length of fiber cable to a different length of the same type of cable. This is sometimes known as in-line closure or track joint. Added functionality is provided by a spur (or branch) joint which divides the cable into two ongoing parts - the main cable and a side or spur cable. There are also end of route closures where the cable is broken out into individual elements for customer or telco connection.

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

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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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