Article by: Dr. Arvind Mishra, Head of Application & System Engineering at Sterlite Tech
As the demand for high-speed connectivity in the home increases, countries are taking action with their own government-led broadband initiatives, with new targets being set on an almost daily basis. The UK’s Chancellor, Philip Hammond, for example, just last week built on the country’s existing broadband targets, promising that two million premises every year would be connected to full-fibre networks between now and 2025.
These figures come as no surprise, as IP traffic across the world has crossed the ‘one zettabyte’ mark, with data consumption almost doubling every two years. This has paved the way for a new era of technology trends which in turn, has facilitated the creation of millions of applications for connected devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, smart home applications and consumer electronics.
As these new technologies become more data-driven, the density and reach of fibre is increasing at an exponential pace, with fibre getting closer and closer to the actual point of consumption. While this brings huge opportunities for governments looking to create a gigabit society and service providers looking to launch new revenue-generating services, it also brings new challenges to network operation and management.
Among these challenges is the one posed by evolving mobile networks. With 4G, the backhaul of data between towers relies heavily on fibre and as 5G networks begin to be realised, this traffic is only expected to further increase, highlighting the vital requirement for fibre to reach beyond the street cabinet, into the home or at least to buildings.
As a result of the number of smart home applications, IoT devices, HD/4K video downloads and security applications increase, networks must also become faster and more resilient to ensure these devices are supported. In addition, rising residential construction in emerging economies and increased investments in the telecom sector are further driving FTTH technologies globally.
This fundamental need to make networks smarter has expanded beyond the world of telecoms and is being addressed by a number of countries. Governments are making plans to deliver broadband-enabled applications such as 5G, IoT, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to improve a number of verticals, including education, healthcare, public services and government activities.
Initiatives such as these are becoming increasingly prominent in Europe, which is implementing connectivity targets of up to 1Gbps for schools, universities, research centres and other critical institutions. There are also plans to widen this to European households by 2020, providing people with the option to upgrade their 100Mbps connections up to 1Gbps in the future.
The challenge – and opportunity – for operators is to find a cost-effective and quick way to respond to these initiatives and meet demand, while complying with strict market requirements such as those set by the EU.
The connectivity challenge
In light of these developments, FTTH technology has never been more important – but there are still hurdles on the road to gigabit connectivity. As the move to next-generation networks gathers pace and technology evolves, a skills gap is emerging in the industry and it needs to be bridged if operators are to meet market demands. The requirement for skilled man-power to handle splicing and high-quality installations, while having the skillset to tackle cable slack issues is key. Challenges also lie in the high number of pieces and accessories being handled within the field and the use of expensive splicing machines for largescale rollouts.
As cities become increasingly connected, the demand for FTTH in urban areas is also increasing, raising concerns regarding the reliability of the network amid the dusty conditions under construction buildings in cities. When it comes to rural areas, broadband speeds are still lagging behind the urban networks and needs immediate overhaul. In addition to this, the high cost and time of installation of FTTH networks is also an overriding concern, as system integrators are often met with tight deadlines from operators looking to stay ahead of the game.
No match for fibre
To meet the real-time demand for FTTH, a solution which enables fast and reliable connectivity to empower operators to complete home pass readiness in the shortest possible deployment time and at the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) is vital. This is especially true in the case of Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs).
It should also be noted that every deployment is different and that is why solutions must allow customisation and support different Splitter Ratio combinations from Day-1 in the field. They must also be flexible enough to be mixed and matched to enable both centralised and two-stage splitting architecture to meet the requirements of each deployment, while ensuring passive enclosures can be easily configured. Passive enclosures must also maintain a stringent ingress protection feature to ensure they are compatible with pole and wall-mount installations, providing additional flexibility during installation. A solution such as this must be resilient enough to face urban and rural conditions where rodents are likely, ensuring cables that are laid are protected from severing and damage.
To meet the requirements of government-led broadband initiatives in Europe, the solution must not only be compliant with EU standards for impact, nature, UV resistance and ROHS compliance, but exceed them as well as providing guaranteed durability for more than 25 years and meeting Construction Products Regulation (CPR) compliance.
As operators and ISPs want to meet these government-set targets with ubiquitous, always on-connectivity, they must build up strategic partnership with technology disruptors like us who are among the leaders in fibre technology and at the forefront of innovation, compliance and standards.
Sterlite Tech’s Smarter MDU Plug and Play Passive Solution brings such a solution to the industry, with global telecom players already saving between 40-50% deployment time, along with 33% reduction on man-hours used, for FTTH projects. Leveraging the latest GPON standards and fibre types, the Plug and Play kit eases network operation and maintenance by overcoming high-bend losses within buildings, empowering service providers to deliver consistent and better customer experience over its lifetime to support future NG-PON requirements.
Supporting both centralised and two-stage splitting architectures, the solution incorporates a unique SC-APC Cassette Splitter and allows quicker home connection activations using fast installable connectors or pre-connectorised drop ends at sites.
In addition, its compact, modular design with re-configurable passive enclosures, allows adjustments to the MDB, BDB and FAT points. All passive enclosures have stringent ingress protection features (minimum of IP-65) that are compatible with both pole and wall-mount installations, providing additional flexibility during installation and ensuring the vertical and horizontal shafts of cables maintain high-rodent resistance in outdoor deployments. Cables such as this must also leverage G.657 A1/A2 standards and B3 type cables to prevent high-bend losses, as well as support varied field-length deployment scenarios to reach the outmost rural areas of countries.
To counteract the industry-wide skills gap, Sterlite Tech has ensured that all components are included in the installation kit at the manufacturing unit itself, providing even unskilled workers with the tools to install FTTH networks with minimum hand holding. This drastically cuts labour expenses and reduces splicing time by between 70-80%. The kit can also be easily handled by a small two-member team, while ensuring splicing incidents are reduced by more than 60%.
By combining these features, the total cost of ownership for the FTTH network can be significantly lowered and permission times from building societies is also greatly reduced, empowering telcos to meet project timelines set by government-led broadband initiatives while reducing the uncertainty around project completion.
FTTH fuelling the future
By significantly reducing installation time and minimising costs of deployment of fibre networks, global telecom operators as well as ISPs can meet demand and market trends in real-time, ensuring they can remain competitive and profitable. This empowers operators and ISPs to build faster and more reliable last-mile connectivity, positioning them to meet consumer demand for high-speed connectivity not only in cities and buildings, but from the comfort of user’s homes.
This places 5G connectivity speeds and IoT-enabled services at the fingertips of consumers, providing the increased bandwidth to support futuristic applications including e-health, e-education, UHD TV, VR, smart homes and security. And it is not only the end-user who reaps the benefits, aligning service providers to monetise on this new market opening with value-added broadband packages and new innovative services.
As an industry benchmark establishment and with a strong focus on best practices for deployments, Sterlite Tech can ensure that operators remain at the forefront of technology not only now, but in the future, as consumer demand continues to explode and connectivity is made available for all.