Let’s Discover Fibre to the Home (FTTH)

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There has perhaps never been a time of more urgent need for superfast connectivity than today. As the third decade of the 21st century rolls on, we can confidently say that there are more connected devices in the world than there are people. 21.5 billion devices in 2021, to be precise.

And we’re not just using them to surf the internet anymore. They have paved the way for face calls from phone calls. Thanks to smart devices, meetings today imply video conferences. And there are more such examples. ‘Going to office’ is steadily becoming ‘working from home’. Video game opponents are less your siblings and more some random strangers from Estonia, Argentina, or South Korea. So, the question is, what is the fastest way to connect them all at present?

The answer, experts say, is FTTH. Yes, that’s the rather cool abbreviation for Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Home, whichever you prefer. Essentially, FTTH is the delivery of superfast communication signals via optical Fibre (OFC cable) to a home or a business centre. In a nutshell, it is a much faster connectivity option than the erstwhile copper cables. How fast?

You’ll find the answer to that and more in our comprehensive blog on Fibre to the Home (FTTH), like:

What exactly is an FTTH connection?

How does fibre to the home work?

How is FTTH implementation carried out?

What are the benefits of FTTH?

What is Fibre to the Home (FTTH)?

Does an internet transmission speed of 250-1000 Mbps sound like a superpower? If yes, then the hero that wields it is none other than Fibre. If you have a Fibre network connection at your home with an FTTH speed typically of 100 Mbps, you can download a 2-hour movie in 10 seconds! Compare that with the regular cable internet connection speeds of 10 Mbps, and we all know where the future lies!

That is why fibre to the home is proliferating at such a fast pace. Already, around 10 million residences worldwide have a working Fibrenet internet.

As we’ve already read above, fibre to the home (FTTH) is a fibre optic access solution designed for homes. In such networks, optical fibres are directly connected from an operator’s switching equipment to residences and buildings. Why we are increasingly preferring Fibre to deliver FTTH internet is because of its superior speed, higher bandwidth, reliability and future-readiness. Since a Fibre to the H connection is up to 100X faster than a traditional DSL connection, it is much more appropriate for today’s data-heavy applications such as HD streaming, teleconferencing, zero-latency multiplayer gaming, virtual reality, smart surveillance, IoT sensors, and more.

Moreover, a Fibre cable internet allows operators to continuously upgrade bandwidth without having to dig up and replace the Fibre. All they need to do is continuously improve the Fibre optic equipment at hand. That means, there’s no need for regular FTTH implementation, as such. An FTTH network also has a much higher load capacity, making it ideal for providing reliable coverage in dense environments. Consider this mind-boggling stat: over 2.5 million phone calls can be handled simultaneously on a single pair of Fibre optics v/s just six phone calls on a single copper pair conductor! 

One question we often see pop up in conversations is whether the ‘H’ in Fibre to the H stand only for home? Well, it does. But an FTTH network can also be deployed for a business or a workplace. Today, fibre to the home is now widely accepted as the last mile of internet connectivity to homes. As such, mobile operators and telcos are investing billions of dollars to upgrade existing customer connections to the ‘future’ with the use of Fibre optic cable.This is reflected in the latest forecast by Research and Markets that pegs the FTTH industry to reach US$34.7 billion in value by 2027 at 12.4% CAGR.

Global Market For Fiber To The Home/Building (FTTH/B)
researchandmarkets.com

How Fibre to the Home (FTTH) works?

To understand how Fibre to the Home (FTTH) works, it is important to understand how an OFC i.e., an optical Fibre cable works. In essence, an OFC carries light signals to transmit data across the length of the network. This is different from regular twisted or coaxial cables which carry electrical impulses to deliver data. Since optical signals are faster and not affected by noise, cross-talk or other interference, an FTTH network can deliver uninterrupted Fibrenet internet over much larger distances.

For long, OFC cable has been utilised in the backbone network i.e., the parent network that connects data centers and telephone switches. In an FTTH network, FTTH cables are deployed for last mile connectivity to residences and office premises as well. That has only been made possible due to steady decline in prices of optical Fibre as well as FTTH equipment.

Let’s make a sort of map of the FTTH network to understand how it works. You will come across various terms such as CO, ODN, CPE, and more.

Essentially, a Fibre optic network is used to deliver triple reproduction services i.e., voice, video and data. Everything from high-speed Fibre cable internet, video on demand, HDTV, and VoIP to MPEG video, pay-per-view and RF video can be delivered deep into the customer premises with FTTH (or FTTp). 

The Video Headend and the Internet feed content into the CO (Central Office) or the PoP (Point of Presence) of an FTTH operator. Thereafter, the CO converts the content from an electrical signal to optical pulses that travel via an Optical Distribution Network (ODN) to the terminal at a subscriber’s home over an optic Fibre cable. At the subscriber’s home, a Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) reverts the optical signal back into an electrical one that is picked up by the router. And voila!

The types of services that can be offered via the FTTH network include VoIP, lifeline POTS, RF video, MPEG video, IPTV, HDTV, video on demand, pay-per-view, high-speed Internet and several other services. 

How can Fibre to the Home (FTTH) be implemented?

Now that we know how fibre to the home works, let’s dive into FTTH implementation. In broader terms, FTTH can be implemented by two methods:

1. Active Optical Networks (AONs)

In an FTTH Active network, electrically powered switching equipment is utilised to channel signals to specific users much more directly. Here, a multi-fibre cable from the central office carries multiplexed signals to a local active node. What happens next? Well, as you can imagine, all the customers are fed into by these signals. These signals are then distributed to all the customers. Although it has its benefits, an Active Optical Network is used less than a Passive Optical Network for FTTH. You’ll find the reason for the same in the next point.

2. Passive Optical Networks (PONs)

The biggest difference between PONs and AONs is that the former uses optical splitters for directing the signal to users instead of electrically powered switching equipment. In this architecture, a bi-directional PON splitter is used. Signals can travel both downstream to the user and upstream to the Central Office from both ends.

As you can imagine, many users can share the same FTTH connection from the point of the splitter. No active components that facilitate optical-electrical-optical conversion are needed in the architecture. This, coupled with significant reduction in the cost of the links due to sharing, thanks to the optical splitter, makes PONs a more cost-effective and high performing option.

Since PONs are the preferred architecture for most FTTH Fibre to the home network, we should also look at their network topology:

  • OLT – It stands for Optical Line Terminal. It is essentially an endpoint hardware device that converts standard signals sent by the service provider to the PON architecture’s frequency and framing. It also facilitates multiplexing between the conversion devices on ONTs (optical network terminals) at a customer’s home.
  • ONU – It stands for Optical Network Unit. An ONU essentially changes an optical signal from an OFC cable back to an electrical one. As you can imagine, it is installed at the end premises of a user. Interestingly, ONU also optimises and organises different user data and transmits it to the OLT.
  • ODN – It stands for an optical distribution network, and forms the link between an OLT and an ONU. Its role is to fragment and dispense the PON signal.

What are the Advantages of Fibre to the Home (FTTH)?

It is easy to see the many advantages of FTTH. We have simplified them to include high-speed Fibre cable internet, enormous bandwidth and future readiness. Here’s how:

  1. High Speed – The requirement of high-speed internet in a post-pandemic world has become such a necessity that even mentioning it feels like a cliché. It is indeed the backbone of instantaneous, real-time communication – whether for personal use or work, both of which are happening from the home. The rampant proliferation of 5G has brought in headwinds of high-speed connectivity to people and industry alike, making multiple futuristic use-cases in home IoT such as smart sensors, smart security, voice assistants, VR gaming, etc. possible. Hence, a powerful, superfast FTTH broadband is the need of the hour. This is where fibre to the home offers almost 100X faster broadband speeds of 100 Mbps compared to typical DSL modems – an upgrade of epic proportions. 
  • Availability – Compared to traditional internet cables, Fibre optic network to the home enables a much higher bandwidth for end users. This means significantly improved network performance over long distances and in high density areas where demand for data is only going to surge. As more and more people get connected to the internet and buy more data-heavy smart gadgets, a fibre to the home connection ensures the availability of a reliable, high-capacity network at all times – including peak hours of data traffic. 
  • Future Proof – One of the biggest benefits of FTTH over regular internet connects is that it allows operators and network providers to upgrade the network performance progressively without having to replace the Fibre. That represents huge cost, time and effort savings in replacement and installation. Additionally, one can also simply upgrade the FTTH infrastructure in the future without touching the cables. This imparts FTTH a great degree of future-proofing – making it suitable for new-age technologies and applications.

Conclusion

Fibre to the Home is indeed the next frontier of how we experience internet at homes and buildings. It already represents a technology leap over traditional modem deployments thanks to its use of near-zero interference Fibre optic technology. But, as the last mile link of superfast interconnectivity for the IoT and 5G era, it is truly opening the doors for intra-home and intra-building innovation beyond tomorrow.

One challenge that FTTH faces is the expensive nature of its large-scale deployment. While that becomes more economised over the next decade, operators and network service providers continue to bring Fibre ever closer to homes and buildings with FTTN and FTTC.

FTTN, or Fibre to the Node, is simply a Fibre optic connection till a node near your premises, with a copper cable connecting that node to your home. Typically, this node covers a 1.5 km distance in radius. FTTC, on the other hand, stands for Fibre to the Curb, which brings the optical Fibre even closer to a curb (a platform that serves multiple users) that serves buildings within a radius of typically 300 m. FTTN vs FTTC – the difference just lies in nodal distance of the Fibre terminal the distance from an average home.

FAQs

  • What is the difference between FTTH and FTTx?

FTTH network and FTTx network denote the various types (or groupings) of Fibre infrastructure. The ‘FTT’ in the terms stands for ‘Fibre to the’, with the last letter making all the difference. While ‘h’ denotes ‘home’, ‘x’ is just a quantifier that denotes all types of Fibre networks, including FTTH. In an FTTH, the Fibre optic network reaches within the confines of residential or minor business premises through an OFC cable. FTTx, on the other hand, could stand for Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH), Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP), Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC), and Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN). 

  • Is FTTH and Fibre same?

FTTH is essentially a deployment of Fibre to the home or building premises. Fibre is the term for glass wires that carry optical signals that are used to transmit data, voice and video. The use of Fibre optic cable form the bedrock of a FTTH network which also includes various sophisticated equipment and junctions in order to transmit, convert and optimise the internet signal to the end user.

  • What is GPON?

GPON is the abbreviation for Gigabit Passive Optical Network. It is a multi-point passive optical network architecture used to deploy FTTH, and is cable of supporting heavy bandwidth, transmission distances up to 20 km, ATM and TDM traffic, and triple-play services. It only needs an OLT and ONU for its functioning.

  • What is the difference between FTTH and fttb?

In essence, both FTTH and FTTb i.e., Fibre to the Building, can be used interchangeably. That’s because they have a similar network architecture and connect premises/buildings directly optical Fibre network. However, there is a minor difference in that an FTTH connection directly reaches every single home in a building whereas an FTTb connection simply connects to the building which then branches out to individual homes via metallic cables.

  • What are the different versions of FTTx?

The different versions of FTTx are:

  • Fibre to the Home (FTTH)
  • Fibre to the Building (FTTB)
  • Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)
  • Fibre to the Curb (FTTC)
  • Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
  • What is ONU?

An Optical Network Unit is abbreviated as ONU and is located at the premises of the end user. It is an important component of the PON topology of FTTH networks. It performs the function of reverting the optical signal back to an electrical signal so that the individual can enjoy high-speed Fibre internet at home.

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