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Smart fiber wins!

11 April 2018

Smart fiber wins!

Providers across the world focus on two questions, how to reach out to more end-customers quickly, and how to deploy cost-efficient technology without effecting the quality. Existing ducts in the ground are the preferred deployment method as civic works are expensive and aerial deployment or trenching may not always be possible. Japanese fibre innovator Fujikura has developed a revolutionary new fibre deployment method, which today enables the most compact and cost-effective lay out in the industry. With this new approach less duct space is used, splice time is dramatically reduced and more capacity can be allocated in substantially less time. Providers across the globe have seen their business model significantly improved by this new technology. How? Please read on.

The growth of data volumes and the ever-increasing requirements for increased bandwidth and latency are the drivers of more and more fibre deployments. This trend will not become less apparent in upcoming years; rather to the contrary, once 5G is adopted, fibre networks will need to be densified and revamped still further. In order for the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and other new innovations of digitalization to succeed, high fibre count networks are needed.  

Combatting the Need for Bandwidth

When 4G devices were first introduced to the market, they immediately started to produce 15 times as much traffic as older devices. However providers struggled with the traffic staying within the networks by being off-loaded to WiFi in social media applications such as WhatsApp and Skype, damaging  the revenue stream of providers. In order to survive, providers are rethinking their business models. As a survival strategy they add new digital services to their portfolio. Providers also need to compensate for sinking ARPUs and improve CAPEX and OPEX spending.

When bandwidth demand from video services is growing exponentially and revenues are sinking, the burning question for providers is how to manage the growing, but volatile demand of bandwidth, and how to keep customers on board. End-customers are becoming increasingly difficult to handle. Not only are they mercilessly using revenue-free services, piggy-backing onto existing networks, but they are also creating a lot of load and little revenue. On top of that, churn rates are high, customers are always expecting high service, reliable coverage and always-on performance, meaning that they are no longer loyal to an operator - the moment a competitor offers a package for a few cents less or if a system is degrading, customers flee immediately in large numbers. A cost-effective and reliable service is therefore needed for success. Today this can only be achieved on homogenous, robust large count fibre networks.

 Generally, explosive growth, which is unpredictable, is dangerous. In the telecom business the infrastructure, glamourless layer 1 is the bottle neck. Level 1 hangs on the neck of providers and requires huge investments. Tier 1 providers often want to expand fast and they buy small networks in neighboring territories. However they forget that fast inorganic growth comes at a price. Having to manage networks with manifold legacies, differing equipment and heterogenous network structures can become hard if not impossible to integrate.  

Unlike servers, multiplexer and software infrastructure, layer 1 is difficult to scale. It is impossible to simply push a button and to happily watch how changes in hardware setup proliferate throughout your network. In order to implement change in layer 1, a lot of logistic effort is needed and many issues have to be handled. Until now if you wanted to scale up your network and you had to touch the physical infrastructure, you needed tough fighters on the ground and a lot of available cash in order to organize and fight the swamp of heterogeneous components and over loaded ducts.

In this situation the Fujikura system offers a valuable support for providers. For the first time, a truly universally adaptable and fast method to upscale physical networks is available. If a provider owns a duct system and he has a legacy loose tube fibre system, he can yell "bingo", as with Fujikura it becomes possible to upgrade this network in precisely the right segments. Where demand is coming up unexpectedly, users can simply pull out, or blow out, legacy fibre and replace it with new Fujikura fibre with equal sheath thickness and parameters, but with double the capacity. This makes it easier to answer to customer demands that may pop up in the most unexpected segments of the existing network. With the Fujikura system major installations can be done cost effectively, affected segments can be upgraded and therefore the Achilles heel of any network business model can be covered.

In the past, cables were deployed with a vision that they would lay there untouched for 25 years. The remaining equipment was changed at least every six years - sometimes more often - only the cables held on, often with unpleasantly low attenuation. With the new fibre technology from Fujikura, this bottle neck of layer 1 is finally disappearing. From now on providers can start to concentrate on their core business and do not need to address the issue of incompatible hardware, different network slices and lack of redundancy.

In the future fibre networks will become cash cows, and copper networks will be the dogs of the industry. Laws of physics reduce the distance signals can travel over copper lines, so in order to reach all customers in a single territory, providers with copper networks need to offer fibre to remote customers, creating a complex and potentially painful last mile. Complexity is always a cost driver, also copper distribution points need electricity and maintenance, EMC issues arise, bandwidth over copper is limited, all kill profitability. In a few years only fibre providers will be in business. And only those fibre providers will prosper who can drive down the cost of fibre deployment. Those will be able to achieve phenomenal business. They will have less overhead OPEX and faster returns, a more robust customer base and they will be able to scale their services fast and robust.  

Providers who work with high fibre counts and redundancy open themselves up for mission critical applications such as IoT or autonomous driving. As a rule it is always better to run many fibres to each sensor or aggregation point. If one transmission line fails, there is always a fall back line available to replace the missing link.

Managing the 5G Data Tsunami

In most countries duct systems are a sparse resource. In order to manage the 5G data tsunami, ultra-high fiber counts are needed. Direct burial of cable is a deployment method that is tempting. In the short run it seems cheaper to work in that way. However deploying a duct infrastructure pays off in the long term. Future generations will be thankful for existing duct infrastructures. Every year brings new fibres that are still thinner. The old standard was 250 micron, but the cladding is reduced, so this goes down to 200 micron today. Less and less space is used by cable constructions. Today, a dry Fujikura cable can easily replace an existing gel filled fiber cable with loose tubes, hereby doubling the fiber capacity with minimal cost. In the future capacity may even be tripled or quadrupled and then the replacement of old fashioned legacy cable will be the only way to add new users cost effectively. We simply do not know what applications the future will bring, so having a few dark fibres in the back hand is always a good investment.

Japan - the motherland of fibre innovations  

Copper and many loose tube fibre systems have reached their end of life and they waste duct space. New fibre solution are needed, and Japan is the hotbed for such developments. Japan traditionally is the motherland of fibre innovations. It is a highly urbanized and extremely densely populated country. Making things smaller and adding more functions has always been the focus. Fujikura has developed cables since 1885 and it has set the standard for fibre solutions where 12 fibres are intermittently connected with NTT. Such fibre bundles can unfold separately, allowing easy and flexible mid-span access, which allows homes to be passed faster and with less cost as networks are built out. Naturally, if 12 fibres are spliced together in one go, the speed of deployment is drastically increased.

This design is by far the most cost efficient and at the same time most reliable method for a widespread roll out of high count fibre networks. Within a short time the cost for replacing loose tube fibre designs starts to pay for itself. Revamping and adding new fibres will become the standard procedure in future networks.  Ripping out old cables will be as normal as it is today as we upgrade software, servers or multiplexer, simply because a new version of the vendor has appeared on the market.   

21st Century Deployments

Providers in many countries, especially Verizon in the US or NBG in Australia are currently building out their backbones with extreme high fibre counts (up to 3500 fibres). Australia's biggest infrastructure project today is not a hydro plant, an airport or a high-speed train, but the highest investment this government makes for the population of Australia is to invest in a nationwide fibre network (65bn AUD).  

In Japan, the fibre design from Fujikura is the standard for fibre and this has produced an extreme high acceptance rate and record high bandwidths in this nation. In Europe too, high fibre counts are gaining ground, especially in northern countries like Sweden. Here the ground is frozen most of the year, so speed of deployment is crucial.  

In the past, old types of fibre bundles persisted, with 12 fibres firmly clued  together on one level, making landing and mid-span access complicated. In a less densely populated country like Sweden this was accepted by installers considering that the technology offered many other benefits. But in continental Europe loose tube fibres unfortunately became the standard. Often, harsh climatic conditions can be an advantage for the economy of a nation. The existence of fast fibre highways has confidently enabled fast mobile penetration in Scandinavia, as well as making it the Data Centre hub of Europe. This is not only due to cooling and electricity being inexpensive, but also because the necessary fibre highways are already in place, allowing great data performance.

Dry fibre bundles offer many other advantages, mostly the ease of deployment and reduction of splice time. What is important is that entire topologies can be rethought. Due to high fibre counts, electrical feeding for the many aggregation nodes out in the fields can be eliminated. Entire villages can be fed from a distance, which reduces electricity costs and the cost for the building of street cabinets and offices. In companies where there are several head offices, sometimes consolidation and centralization can take place, which leads to tremendous cost savings.  

There's Safety in Numbers

One argument that holds its own in many environments is the idea that there is safety in numbers. If you have more fibres run to each device in the field, you can easily rebuild a route if it fails. Also, the time for rebuilding such a dysfunctional line is reduced. If a mission critical cable is cut, users can rest assured that the effected cable will be brought in line faster. Therefore the risk of downtime is reduced by high fibre designs Fujikura style, not only because redundancy is increased, but mainly because results from local outages can be fixed faster.

To summarise, it can be argued that for modern telecom networks, high fibre cables are critical for survival and providers that will introduce them will see a disruptive improvement to their business model at a swift speed.  

by Jochen Arms, Senior Business Development