Building Future Ready Networks With Innovative Fiber Optics Solutions

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Innovative Fiber Optics Solutions

Over 2.2 billion people all over the world are using the internet every day and this is up to three times more than before the pandemic hit. These new users are driving more and more traffic and the predictions are that the global IP traffic will grow multiple folds over the next three to four years. This means it becomes the job of all network providers to provide internet services that can handle such a large volume of data transmission.

Telcos have been increasing their CAPEX span on a regular basis with the investment opportunities, and the predictions state that this will only be moving forward in the next few years, similar to cloud companies. The investment is predicted to double over the next few years with contributions from private equity, enterprises, and citizen network investments in the US, UK, and India. There have been aggressive government investment efforts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with connection to the digitisation and bettering of communication systems. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are globally in the top 10 in terms of moving government services into the digital domain.

All this capital will be primarily involved in three build cycles – 5G, FTTx, and Rural connectivity. The CRY predicts the growth in the demand for optical cable fiber to jump up to a million fiber kilometers by 2025. With such high demand, the telco industry needs solutions that allow the rolling of the network faster, work more efficiently and build products that enable such networks to get things out there faster. There is a need for solutions to facilitate deep fiberisation while reducing service outages; all in all, offering a better quality of life. While there is still pressure to fix or reduce broken networks, there is a need to reduce the cost of the network build-up.

What are the challenges with the optical network (Fiber to Home)?

  • Attenuation: Since it’s based on light, the light needs to get from point A to point B.
  • Bending Sensitivity: If you bend optical fiber too tight light will fall out so there is a chance of optical loss.
  • Compatibility: The changes need to be compatible with not only legacy networks but also with what’s coming in the future.
  • Accidents: Especially with individuals using the network for the first time.

The FTH networks are getting crowded and there is a need to find new places to live. While there are GPON, XGS PON, NG-PON carriers already used in coexistence with elements to try and put even multiple pawns onto GPON and XGS PON onto the network at the same time, there is a rapid use of the available wavelength leading to wireline wireless network. But, where is the space for small cells in this wavelength plan? If the small cells are put onto the passive optical network, it pushes to the extremes of short wavelength or the PON monitoring into the extreme of the L-Band.

Solutions:

The need of the hour is long wavelengths. Deploying higher wavelengths is mandatory for the future. Loss, however, is an issue at the long wavelength. The optical loss due to bending of the optical fiber is high, and this becomes a problem especially because the legacy fiber deployed in many networks has poor performance in the L-Band in long wavelengths. A minor bent one turn and 7.5 mm radius at the longest wavelength leads up to 16dB loss in the L-Band and U-Band with G652D. But with G657A2, which is an optical fiber optimised for low bend loss, works best with the L-band all the way to the U-Band 1650 nanometer.

What is special about STL’s Stellar G657A2?

The core of the optical fiber is where the optical signal traps the light inside and guides it down the fiber to get to the other end. Since the refractive index is higher for A1, if the fiber is bent too tightly, the light will fall off. While on the other hand for A2 fiber, a trench is put around the core so the light is kept in the core even if the optical fiber is bent sharply. This reduces the loss to 0.1 dB for one turn at a 7.5 mm radius.

The challenges:

The traditional A2 designs have a smaller core so there is a challenge in matching the A2 fiber core to the D fiber core. For example, due to the smaller core of the A2 fiber against the D fiber with the larger core, the ITDR signal may have physical errors so there may not be an accurate measurement of the loss of network using ITDR trace. This complicates trying to qualify these networks when making a transition from D to A2 or A2 to D fibers. The problem is that the legacy fiber has a core of 9.1 microns and then the typical A2s have a smaller core, which is 8.6-micron core. While there was a trial of creating A2 fibers with a D core, the performance was not up to the mark. However, with process advancements and further headways, it is now possible to make an A2 fiber with a D core and still achieve the A2 bend performance.

Does it work in long-haul networks? 

Long-haul networks are the backbone of the network. While most of them are still based on D fiber, if this stellar fiber has a D core then it may logically seem suitable for long-haul networks systems too. With several testings and measurements, this was proven correct. The stellar fiber with the D core performs the same as the D fiber in long-haul measurements with low band loss. This makes the A2 performance future-ready, not only in terms of bend loss at long wavelengths but also in cost savings due to easier first-time installations and quicker recovery from an accidental bend and first time right to deployment.

Drop Cables

Challenges of Drop Cable Solutions 

Connecting last cable up to connect customer by customer

  • Skills required to prepare, insert and secure the fiber for the field installable connector
  • Specialised equipment required: splicing machine, splicing tech
  • Possibility of slow deployment due to shortage of higher-level skills for a rapid rollout
  • Potential failure points & reliability issues
  • Possibility of disturbing live network when touching other fibers connected to customers.

Solutions:

Preconnectorization: This ensures no contact with the network which will reduce the skill required. Example – IP68 Ruggedized outdoor connector. Such technology is owned in the industry and is available with different suppliers, such as STL. Pairing it up with a drop cable, which has zero preferential bends, makes it easy to handle. It can be installed with the standard spiral clamps and is compatible with both aerial and underground deployment so that one drop cable solution can be used everywhere. It reduces the skill level, does not require splicing, and does not interfere with the live network.

How does it work?

In terms of the live network when the distribution terminals are installed, they are all pre-stubbed. So when the network is rolled out, all users don’t necessarily need to be connected. But since it is installed, a user can be connected by plugging a drop cable into one of the ports at any time and without touching the live network. This not only lowers the requirement for skilled technicians but also speeds up the addition of a customer while improving safety. They come with four, eight, and twelve port terminals.

When talking about MDUs or enterprises with multiple endpoints in a building required to be connected, a retractable cable can be used. This cable is like a drop cable combined into one package. For instance, a cable with a red fiber needs to be installed first and then a window cut is made at location A and location B. If the cut is made at location A then it can be pulled out at location B which makes a drop cable. This is a pre-packaged tube that is called retractable because one is retracting a drop cable out of the main cable. There is no splice at the point where the cable is accessible and the smaller cable can run through a small duct to the final endpoint in the building. While people may be concerned about the size and appearance of these elements, STL and other players in the market have nice-looking boxes and elements to make the solution look neat. For a longer run where a retractable drop cable is not enough, STL also has horizontal drop cables that are very discreet so that they are easy to hide inside the building.

Aerial Cables

Challenges of Conventional Aerial Solutions 

  • Quite strong with high tensile strength
  • Figure 8 cables have a metal strength member cannot be used near transmission lines and require grounding
  • The cable can pull down some physical infrastructure in case of an accident. This extends the repair time to get the network back up.

Solution:

Work Safe Construction Cables: These cables are specifically engineered to break at a specific load, for example, at 2000 newtons. If it exceeds, the cable breaks rather than pulling down the pole and destroying the infrastructure, reducing the safety hazard too. Replacing the cable is a much quicker process than replacing the pole. The cable is also easy to use. For example, a Micromodule-based cable has tubes inside. So there is no need for a tool to remove the rube from the fiber. It has a nice soft cushioning material that protects the fiber. It can be removed simply by hand and allows technicians to work faster.

Compact Solutions

Micro ODC Closure –

  • Really compact and efficient in terms of space
  • Works well with the aerial cable and micro cables
  • Splice up to 96 fibers
  • Can fit in a small space, for example, a manhole.

Duct Space Challenges and Solutions

To increase the capacity of the fiber plants, duct space is required. New ducts incur huge investments, almost 80%, to be spent on civil work. The options are to go with smaller cables with the same fiber count or to maximise the fiber count in the same diameter cable. Micro cables have a standard duct, 25 mm OD 20 mm ID, with a standard 72 fiber loose tube cable of 10.6 mm in diameter. When running out of duct space, a miniaturised micro duct of 12 mm OD 10 mm ID can be used. The cable fits inside eight mm diameter very small with 288 fibers. This is achieved by moving from a 250-micron fiber to a smaller 200-micron diameter fiber enabling a high density of optical fiber in such a small cable.

Some incredible amount of fiber in a very small diameter is available in the market. One can further leverage it by taking a look at multi-way ducts and so it’s not just one duct but multiple ducts arranged together that can be deployed all together at once.

A seven-way duct can fit over two thousand fibers. One nice feature about this is that all cables do not need to be put in at once. One can put three today and upgrade by adding more cables to improve capability. If it is loaded, it can go up to 2000 fibers which is a lot of fibers in the micro cable technology which now is only single fiber based.

It is time to take a look at optical ribbon solutions. Now, when splicing 12 fibers at a time with only one splice protector, it reduces the time to splice and the space required to hold all the splice protectors and protect the splice joints is huge. In an optical ribbon, for example, if there are 12 fibers all lined up next to each other and there are ribbon splicers to strip and cleave all 12 fibers, putting two ends into the machine splices 12 fibers at one go. The rigid ribbon technology wastes a lot of space and is too large for many applications. 

Intimately bonded ribbons have holes that allow them to roll up into tight bundles and take whatever space allowed inside the cable. An intermediate bonded ribbon will take the appropriate shape to maximise the use of the space inside of the cable. It is much smaller than traditional ribbon cables – 70% lighter, half the size, 50% smaller in diameter with a strong structure but simple. It is also optimised for blowing these cables into ducts for up to 2 km at one go.

Benefits at a glance

  • Smaller: More cable in the same drum size
  • Less logistics, less material to handle but longer length of the cable
  • Skip splicing splits: Install a six km cable instead of three and reduce the amount of splicing because the cable is smaller in diameter
  • Make small coils: Save space in manholes and hand tools
  • Flexible: Fit two ribbons instead of one in a tray
  • Compatible with smaller ducts and micro ducts
  • Moving to blowing from pulling: Much quicker
  • Easier first-time deployment
  • Future proofing the network

Conclusion

The particular combination of Stellar fiber and intimately bonded ribbon can increase the rollout speed of the network. Twice as much fiber in the same area can be achieved and it reduces the overall cost of the cable deployed per km. This type of fiber has the potential to become a standard for robust deployment in high-density areas. Network providers can provide unique cable solutions and add to the optical interconnect kits which will make deployment easier and faster, and offer more fiber in the same space.

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