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PPC blog

What’s in a fiber network?

Posted by Dave Stockton


We all regularly talk about Fiber to the Premise (FTTP)/Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks. But, in an era of specialisation, often we only know about the parts that we come into contact with during our working lives - such as the last drop connection, in the case of installers.

So what’s in an FTTP network and how does it work?

In brief, an FTTP network is made up of two main parts:

  • The physical layer.
  • The active optoelectronics. These can be in the central office, the outside network (if any) and at the customer premise.

The ITU-T standard helpfully defines the extent of a fiber network through the G series of recommendations.

It is G.984.2 that is most relevant here, as it covers GPON networks, and it is PONs I’ll address during this post.

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

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5 key skills for successful, safe fiber installations

Posted by Rich Contreras


While there are some similarities between copper and fiber last drop deployments there are also some major differences. If you don’t take these into account, or fail to train your teams properly, you could end up with a project that runs over time, over budget or simply cannot be completed.

So what are the key skills you need to ensure your crews have before starting a fiber installation project? From our experience, there are at least five – although I’m sure there are others, so feel free to add more in the comments below.

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

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How Ultra HD TV will drive fiber to the home connections

Posted by Joe Byrne

In previous blogs, we’ve looked at what will drive demand for the increased bandwidth that fiber to the home connections provide. One of the biggest drivers is likely to be 4K (also known as Ultra HD) TV.

As the name suggests, 4K TVs deliver four times as much detail as current 1080p full HD sets. That's eight million pixels, compared to two million pixels, so pictures will have much better definition and higher quality.

Ultra HD TVs are selling in increasing numbers. Worldwide sales in Q1 2015 were 4.7 million units - up by 400 per cent, compared to the same quarter in 2014 - according to analysts IHS. That’s against a backdrop of overall TV sales shrinking by two per cent year-on-year. Prices for Ultra HD TV sets are dropping as more and more products hit the market. No wonder that consultancy Futuresource predicts that 4K TV sets will make up 42 per cent of the global market by 2018.

The reason that 4K TV will impact bandwidth needs is simple - in the short to medium term the majority of Ultra HD content will be streamed over the internet. Netflix and Amazon are leading the way, providing TV shows, such as House of Cards, in UItra HD, along with a variety of movies from major studios. In fact, from 2014 all Amazon Studios shows are being shot in 4K. In the UK, BT has just launched an Ultra HD sports channel, the first in Europe. This is showing Premier League football matches and MotoGP motorbike racing.

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends, Fiber innovations

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Animals - the number one danger to fiber networks

Posted by Joe Byrne

In a previous post I looked at the six biggest causes of damage to fiber networks. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and additional stories, particularly around the havoc that animals can cause when in close proximity to fiber.

I’d like to particularly thank Steve Wolszczak of Midwest Lightwave Inc. who contributed the stories about cows and gophers. There’s more on Steve at the bottom of the blog.  

So here’s a run down of the six most "dangerous" animals for network planners and installers to look out for:

1. Dead cows

It turns out that dead livestock can cause even more damage to fiber networks than living and breathing ones. The reason? When fiber networks were originally installed through ranching country, deploying the fiber in dry weather could create a scar in the ground. Cattle could easily break a leg in these ruts, forcing ranchers to put them down. While that didn’t endear fiber installers to the farmers, the real issue was that cows tended to be buried on the spot to avoid the spread of disease and discourage predators. This led to ranchers digging a hole with their tractors, taking out the fiber network itself.

Topics: Design and Install, Fiber to the home

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Ireland’s National Broadband Plan – the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Posted by Paul Ryan


Most of us know the story "The Emperor’s New Clothes" - Hans Christian Andersen’s fable where a foolish monarch is convinced that an invisible suit is the latest fashion, and parades in the nude before his subjects.

What people might not know is that the ending was tweaked while the story was at the printers – going from general admiration of the monarch’s new sartorial elegance by the populace, to a plaintive child’s cry of: “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” 

There has been a similar reaction to the Irish Government’s recent proposals for its National Broadband Plan (NBP) published this month. This sets a minimum of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload speeds for all users – a very low bar, according to many observers, such as the Irish Times, particularly as this has been described as a "once and for all solution".

Topics: Fiber to the home, Market trends, Regulatory/Policy

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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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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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