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Restoring fibre connections quickly and cost effectively

Posted by Larry Malone

A_lineman_checks_downed_power_lines_inOptical fibre is very fragile – hence the need to protect it with tough jacketing, wherever it is deployed. However successful an installation is, connections can still be cut or disrupted – whether by bad weather, building work or even damage from animals. Storms and hurricanes are a particular problem in many states, causing disruption to vital communications that can impact the local economy as well as making it difficult to get to touch with those affected.

Restoring service quickly is a priority for telcos for three key reasons:

  1. DutyLocal Exchange Carriers (LECs) are seen to have a public duty to provide customers with service, meaning they need to repair damage quickly and efficiently, both for their own customers and those of carriers that they resell to.
  2. Customer service. Slow restoration of service, particularly at times of crisis has an adverse impact on a carrier’s brand. In competitive markets perceived delays can increase customer churn.
  3. Financial. Obviously customers will not pay for services they cannot receive, so the longer an outage continues the more it hits a carrier’s revenues. With increasingly complex packages (including triple and quad play services), the financial impact of not providing services can potentially escalate very quickly.

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So how do carriers restore service? Typically it involves deploying a fleet of large, expensive maintenance vehicles, containing enormous reels of new fibre. These require a big crew to handle the size of fibre, often with specific blowing equipment, pushing up labour costs and increasing the investment needed to restore service.

But there is an alternative, particularly for connections on the edge of a network. Using smaller, tougher fibre cable, such as PPC's Miniflex range brings down the cost and speeds up restoration. Our cable is proven to withstand some of the most extreme conditions out there, being used in military aircraft, ships and even in space.

As it is light, flexible and compact it can be simply carried using standard pick-up trucks to where it is needed. This reduces call out times as the carrier doesn’t have to wait for its specialist construction vehicles to be free, with pick-ups able to travel faster, using a smaller crew. Once there multiple cables can be used to deliver the required fibre count, either on a permanent or temporary basis. They can be easily pulled and pushed manually, without the need for blowing machines. For example, at road crossings an inner duct could be used to protect the fibre cable from traffic – our cables and ducts have been tested and can withstand pressures of 900 pounds (4000 Newtons) over 100mm without any damage to the fibre itself. That’s the equivalent of a baby elephant standing on one foot on the Miniflex tube.

Restoring service quickly, particularly following extreme weather, is vital to the reputation and revenues of carriers. Thinking laterally and using smaller, rugged cables provides a faster and cheaper way of bringing customers that have been cut off back onto the telephone and online, benefiting both consumers and the carrier.

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