Some ideas for enabling new technologies and protecting investments

Tobias Muenzer, R&M, says:

Tablets, video, smartphones, network convergence and the growing realization that there are even more advanced technologies on the way are driving broadband and fiber uptake. Today’s rapidly increasing traffic has to run over the layer 1 infrastructure. Of course, when you consider this part of the total infrastructure from a Capex and Opex point of view, considerations are mainly cost-related. However, besides cost factors. paying attention to network quality and future-proofing are also important. .

Just think about how long legacy copper network infrastructures have been in place – today’s fiber infrastructure should stay in place for even longer! It should, in fact, outlast several generations of active equipment. Network flexibility is a key issue when creating or adapting Layer 1 infrastructure. Introducing a future proof layer 1 solution, which is adaptable to different topologies, architectures, cable technologies and more, protects the initial investment. Taking the right approach also enables the introduction of several generations of front-end equipment. However, there are several factors that need to be taken into account…

There are different deployment technologies, network architectures and cable technologies to consider. Furthermore, there are new transmission technologies coming up, which affect layer 1. Then, there’s the lifetime expectation of the network and its reliability to consider and much more…. Nobody knows what the requirements of future transmission technologies will be, so how can you make sure your network is ready? In this article, we look at a few suggestions and guidelines…

Decent documentation

Today, we’re seeing the first phases of what may later become vast rollouts. Incomplete or erroneous documentation might not present major challenges right now – but this will be a problem in the future, especially as the people involved on both the supplier side and customer side move on to new jobs. Time spent on good documentation today now will repay itself many times over in the future!

The increasing number of FTTH rollouts and subscriber connections mean that high densities of fibers are coming together at all termination points, starting with ODFs in the central office, to the OSP area via closures, street cabinets and distribution boxes. . These networks will probably be expanded in future, so you definitely need to have everything clearly documented. ILECS are more experienced, due to their long-term experience with copper networks, and already they have documentation systems in place. But for all CLECS, such as Utlility companies or municipalities, this is all ‘uncharted territory’. Often, documentation is done ‘on the fly’, for example in an excel sheet, which may or may not be updated regularly during the course of the project. Automating the documentation process – entirely or partially – helps. As there is currently no unified infrastructure documentation and management tool or industry-standard system, limiting the number of suppliers is advisable. You might not be able to get the absolute lowest price for each part of the network, but in the long run, you’ll save yourself a great deal of extra cost caused by poor documentation, or having to manually keep track of all components.

Pick and mix architecture

Once the deployment starts, the decision is made which type of architecture is the most appropriate. Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint each have their benefits and their limitations. Business parks are usually interested in the former, but for private residences nearby the latter would be preferable. However, introducing a combination of the two is also possible and significantly increases future options.

Account for different deployment techniques

Within a single deployment, installation or cable deployment techniques may need to change over time. In the past, fiber was mainly used in backbones and wide area networks. Today, loose tube cables are the most widely used and well-established type. Driven by the increasing fiber rollout out, size is becoming increasingly important. The number of cables and fibers are dramatically increasing as they are brought closer to the subscribers. Therefore, more compressed cables like mini loose tube cables are increasingly used. However, new deployment technologies in particular are gaining a foothold in the market, such as micro ducts in different diameters, for blowing bunches of fibers or even micro cables. This is primarily done to achieve higher flexibility in the infrastructure. Attention should be paid to the choice of the passive fiber management platforms, which must be able to accommodate the variety of deployment technologies available today.

Think ahead!

With high-density solutions, you can soon run out of space for future installations. Some POPs will get harder to manage as they become fuller. Besides cabling, all the other infrastructural tools need to be accommodated, too. So planning ahead pays off – when capacity increases are in order, you need to know which POPs will be crucial and how can you free up space now!

Carefully consider connectivity

In the future, we will certainly see new compression technologies, for example, which won’t make any difference to the overall infrastructure requirements. However, you will definitely need to have sufficient high-quality connectivity available. That means looking beyond the manufacturers’ spec sheets when choosing cables and connectors. Some types are assembled according to the highest internationally recognized standards, and others are not. On paper, test results might be the same but in reality, once lower-grade connectors are in place, you have no guarantee lab test results can be reproduced. Checking manufacturers original test results, or carrying out your own tests is recommended – or you can just select solutions which have been tested in accordance with the highest (IEC) standards.*

Multiconnectivity is changing

Today’s active equipment technology of choice, such as GPON is based on time division multiplexing. However, taking a closer look at standardization committees, we clearly see transmission technology will change to achieve higher data rates. When we speak of NGPON 2, we’re looking at a combination of time division and time and wave division multiplexing, this is also an indicator of the upcoming complete change of the transmission method to a pure wave division multiplexing transmission technology, also known as WDM-PON. Beside transmission technology, we’re seeing other innovations, like increasing the split ratio to safe active ports and increasing the transmission power to extend the reach. The layer 1 which is chosen today needs to be prepared for the future.

Find the best installers

The quality of the installation is just as important as the choice of components, particularly where mass rollouts are concerned. You have to make sure there are enough installers available who are properly qualified to work with fiber. Often, the work will go to the lowest cost contractor, who will give staff a crash course in fiber optics. However, bringing a certified installer on board, specifically trained for the solution of choice, is definitely recommended. Also, there needs to be enough time and resources for quality control. All the lines have to be individually measured for quality assurance. That can mean time pressure, especially when you’re busy with things such as splicing in the field. However, tracing faults after the rollout and fixing them can be extremely costly and time-consuming, especially in a larger network.

Create the best total solution

All in all, it is important to create the right total solution and not just focus on selecting the right products. Consulting with specialists in different areas can help invest the money in the right suitable solution, and slightly higher investments in documentation, cabling, POPs, infrastructure management, connectors and qualified installers will definitely repay themselves – and result in a future-proofed network, which is ready to take on many new generations of active front-end equipment.