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PPC blog

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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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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The importance of cleanliness to successful fiber installations

Posted by Shaun Trezise


Deploying fiber in the field is often a dirty job. Installing in new buildings means working on a construction site, with all the mud, dust, and rainwater that this entails. Digging trenches for fiber ducts adds to the mess, and a sudden storm can turn the whole site into a quagmire

It isn’t necessarily much cleaner indoors, with deployments in existing buildings subject to dust and debris from the installation methods needed to create space for fiber, such as drilling into ceilings and walls.

There are three key reasons that all this dirt and contamination is an issue during fiber installations:

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

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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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Best practice for installing fiber through micro trenching

Posted by Shaun Trezise

When deploying a fiber network, traditional trenching methods can be expensive and time-consuming - and cause extensive disruption to the local area.

In a city, for example, streets have to be closed while they are dug up - annoying residents, drivers and local authorities. Costs for labour, permits and restoration fees are high, adding to budgets and even making some projects uneconomic.

Consequently, many installers are now switching to micro trenching (also known as slot-cut trenching). This offers substantial benefits over traditional methods as it involves using a diamond circular saw to cut a 0.75 - 1.5 inch wide, 4 inch deep trench. Microduct is installed in the bottom of the trench and it is then backfilled and sealed, speeding up the project.

By comparison, traditional trenches are at least 12 inches wide, in order to fit the size of the smallest excavator buckets, and deployments take more passes to backfill. These factors combined mean that micro trenching is typically 60 per cent cheaper than traditional excavations, as well as being much less disruptive to the urban environment.

Topics: Design and Install, Industrial premises, Fiber innovations

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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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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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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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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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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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