Adopting a future-oriented approach to develop broadband networks to address the growing complexity of requirements

When companies install broadband networks, they have two major expectations. First off, they want their broadband networks to last for decades and secondly, they expect their networks to be competent enough to support heavy traffic at higher bandwidths. Undoubtedly, the longevity and reliability of a broadband network are primarily determined by the use of best practices in cable management and the availability of highly-reliable network connections. However, operators should make sure to keep an eye on future trends and adopt an attention-to-detail approach to incorporate specific details in their upcoming outcomes so as to cater to the future needs of the industry in the most desired manner.

The use of the fiber connection in modern times has revolutionized the way we handle communications in the business world. The fiber connections facilitate phone calls, internet access, and video streaming. In fact, the network has the capability to support four generations of transmission systems over its functional life. Fiber connection is on its way to play a bigger role in times to come as the number of global internet users and the volume of data traffic continue to rise.

Latest advancements in Fiber-optic cabling

An operator’s network considerations depend on the standards of fiber-optic cabling and the deployment of new technologies in the field. Single-mode optical fibers can facilitate the delivery of broadband service at an advanced level and such fibers can typically support wavelengths in the 1260nm- 1650nm range. When fibers are made to support longer wavelengths, the fibers may bend and become weakened, which may cause deterioration of the service quality. ITU-T G.652D fibers may come with a minimum radius of 20 mm, which is acceptable, but the dimension becomes quite impractical when technicians make an effort to install the fiber at their customers’ sites. The ITU-T G.657 A2 bend insensitive fibers were introduced by the industry as a solution to address this issue. The macro-bending loss that occurs when these fibers are stowed with a bend radius of 10mm is 10 to 20 times lower than the loss that the G.652D fibers would witness if they are stored with the same bend radius.

Following the introduction of bend-insensitive fibers, the operators now have the option of employing less-skilled people in creating FTTH networks. As operators do their best to continue to create competitive advantage by finding ways to reduce costs and save time, they should also put some emphasis on the selection of appropriate materials and the network architecture. For instance, operators need skilled, trained, and experienced personnel to undertake fiber splicing, but they are aware that professionally-trained splice technicians are not only rare, but their services are considerably expensive too.

Ideally, network architectures should be designed in a way that they feature the lesser number of splice locations with the splicing being concentrated in places and the individual splice density being elevated. This is definitely a cost-saving model, but it needs proper planning at the onset of the design stage to implement the same in an efficient manner. As a matter of fact, it has been found out that several FTTH network businesses have been able to achieve a return on their investments within a short period of time.

This has encouraged operators to put less focus on the specifications of optical connectors and optical fiber cables and on the installation practices. With this approach, operators are able to save a considerable amount of money as they can compromise on material quality and forego the idea of delivering training to personnel to educate them on the use of best practices. However, such an approach may bring cost savings in the short run, but it can prove to be less useful in the long-run as new versions of transmission equipment continue to evolve and demand the use of cables with appropriate supporting capabilities.

So far, the network operators have not adopted serious measures to address residential customers’ concern on downtime, but in the present time, customers have become more conscious of their rights. Fortunately, the industry has witnessed a major progress with the advent of new standards and technologies that have widened the fiber spectrum and promoted the deployment of long-lasting networks.

Building to meet future requirements

With the upcoming stage 2 (NG-PON2) transmission standards that are currently being discussed at ITU-T, operators can increase the bandwidth capacities of the FTTH networks. They can also cut down on the deployment costs either through network sharing or by having multiple connected customers to share the same fiber. NG-PON2 standards promote smooth intersections of new services to the prevailing Gigabit PON (GPON) networks. Interestingly, today’s customers, who are aware of their rights to get quality service, will no longer permit the use of low-quality components in access networks.

A wavelength band in the 1600nm- 1625nm range is ideal for the NG-PON2 downstream channels. However, it is quite surprising to note that the requirements for these transmission wavelengths are not specified in the existing ITU-T and IEC performance standards for cables and connectors. To promote future-proofing of networks, network components should be built with specifications that can match the transmission wavelength of 1625 nm. ITU-T and IEC should make it a point to introduce these revisions in the standards relating to cables and connectors.

As the industry continues to evolve and witness changes, operators should take future developments into account while building networks. While it is hard to predict what those changes would be, but we can still be certain about the use of transmission wavelengths as high as 1625nm in the near future.

As we step into the new era of modernized network operations, we have our past experiences and lessons to shape our journey in a positive way. The efforts to train personnel on the appropriate handling of fiber, the adoption of the best practices in cable management, and the approach to make sure that the right connectors with the right performance specifications are used would all translate into positive impacts for operators and customers at the same time.