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PPC blog

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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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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Multicore networks – the solution to future fiber bandwidth needs?

Posted by Dave Stockton

Even in the midst of current fiber network rollouts, research and development is continuing on the next generation of optical technology, looking to meet the future fiber bandwidth needs of both FTTH and core fiber networks. In this blog I’m going to look at multicore networks, an area where current research could have a big potential impact on future network design and implementation.

The space paradox

It may come as something of a surprise, but the majority of the optical fiber within networks is quite literally a waste of space! Even more bizarrely, the most modern fibers are the biggest waste of space of all.

This paradox arises because of the way fibers transmit the signal they are fed. It is the relatively small core (central portion) of the fiber that carries the information in the network. The remainder of the fiber (the cladding) is there to provide protection and to bulk up the fiber sufficiently that our clumsy human hands can manipulate it. In the case of earlier, multimode fibers with a 62.5 micron core (and 125 micron cladding diameter), 25% of the cross section area of the fiber is used for signal transmission. This decreased to just 16% of the cross sectional area for 50 micron core multimode fiber and now, in the current G.675C fibers, less than 0.5% of the glass cross section is actually used to carry the signal.

Topics: Market trends, Fiber innovations

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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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