Between a Rock and Hard Place?
Service providers in today’s wireline and wireless sectors find themselves squeezed between two conflicting pressures.
On one side, to attract and retain customers, they must continue to invest in the fiber-based network infrastructure essential to support bandwidth-intensive video, data and multimedia applications. This ever-growing demand for bandwidth is underscored by analyst firm research2guidance’s (www.research2guidance.com) recent prediction that the number of smartphone users around the world will grow from 100 million to 1 billion by 2013. Cisco’s 2009 Visual Networking Index estimates that Internet Protocol (IP) traffic will quintuple in that same time frame.
On the other side, service providers are under relentless pressure to turn up new services and customers faster than before while also reducing costs. To achieve these objectives, they need solutions that are:
• cost-effective, enabling them to deploy new fiber connectivity at the lowest-possible cost
• flexible and scalable, to help satisfy growing requirements for more bandwidth
• efficient, in terms of conserving physical space through good cable management, including slack storage
• efficient, in terms of reducing upfront engineering and installation time
• lead time reducing for product delivery
• simple to order, for increased productivity
From the central office, head end, data center and mobile switching office to the outside plant, cell site and customer premise, service providers grapple with a range of connectivity issues. As mentioned earlier, they need to reduce their total cost of adding fiber capacity and network equipment while simultaneously managing CapEx and OpEx. A successful strategy for doing so is based on several factors:
• the ability to deploy new fiber and equipment quickly and easily, within short planning cycles
• reducing maintenance expenses by relying on multi-skilled personnel and minimizing tooling and equipment expenditures
• the use of plug-and-play solutions which, thanks to easier craft interfaces, reduce installation time and require fewer skilled technicians
• maximizing the efficient use of network infrastructure, namely, by deploying solutions that support high fiber density and capacity
Until now, service providers basically had 2 options for establishing connectivity between the optical distribution frame (ODF) or main cross-connect area and the active equipment. The first option was to use individual patch cords in a fiber guide system. The second was to use a multi-fiber IFC, with a connectorized breakout on each end, over ladder racking.
Both options present several additional challenges, including:
• engineering time to determine exact cable length required
• getting the cable length just right, in order to accommodate slack storage limitations
• minimizing cable bulk and congestion, while also protecting the connectors, when pulling the cable through the fiber guide
• timing required to load all of the individual connectors into the rear of the panel
• timing and effort required to lace the cable to the ladder racking, in the case of the IFC approach
Ideally, a better solution would encompass 2 steps.
Step 1: The IFC cable would be mounted inside the panel on a spool, which means it would allow for built-in slack storage as well. With up to 100 feet of IFC, cable available installers would simply pay out the precise length they need from the internal spool. That means they would no longer have to neither pay for and store excess cable nor engineer upfront the precise cable length they needed.
Step 2: The solution would offer 24 fibers in one rack unit of space, with the individual panels being stackable and featuring SC/UPC and LC/UPC connector styles. In addition, the solution would incorporate flexibility, in the form of a small (3-mm) 12f microcable. Installers could run the microcable in a fiber raceway system or on ladder racking. (See Figure 2.) In either application, the microcable would help reduce cable congestion.
Figure 2. Traditional cable routing through ladder racking.
By replacing 12 single-fiber connectors, the MPO would enable a compact, streamlined installation process. The MPO would help minimize loading issues because technicians would only have to load one cable, rather than 12. In addition, lacing would no longer be necessary -- technicians would simply have to route the cable through the fiber guide.
Achieving Breakneck Efficiencies
With such a solution, service providers could reduce their cycle times significantly. While they need as much as 4 to 6 weeks to deploy traditional solutions, they could deploy these new panels in a much shorter time frame: 1 day to 2 weeks.
Through good cable management, including slack storage, the ideal solution would also help to conserve precious real estate. Further, the combination of microcable, reel spooling and MPO connector technology in a single panel would simplify the service provider’s ordering and inventory procedures.
By taking advantage of the improved connector design and reliability built into such new solutions, service providers could adopt a plug-and-play strategy, thereby eliminating the time and expense involved with field terminations and splicing.
With the growing popularity of bandwidth-intensive services that support video, data and multimedia applications, service providers must continue to invest in fiber-based network capacity. At the same time, however, they need to control their CapEx/OpEx in order to protect their margins in an ultra-competitive market.
Solutions such as TE’s Rapid Panel, which are designed to accelerate the overall process of adding new fiber, ensure precise-length cabling and relieve overhead cable congestion, allow service providers to tackle both challenges.
By enabling service providers to install new fiber faster than before and by giving them the flexibility and scalability to deliver more bandwidth as needed, these solutions lower the total cost of expanding fiber capacity. In doing so, innovations can help service providers attract and retain customers, and ensure long-term profitability.
Pat Thompson is the Director of Market Development for TE Connectivity. He has more than 20 years of experience in the telecom industry, in various mechanical and design engineering and product management roles. For more information, visit http://www.te.com/en/home.html.
Innovations by TE, such as the Rapid Panel, conserve physical space by effectively replacing an intermediate panel and an “external” IFC cable.
The Rapid Fiber product line is driven by RapidReel™ technology, an internal cable-payout system which allows installers to unspool precisely the length of cable they need and simply leave any slack stored on the internal spool. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. RapidReel spooling technology accelerates fiber installation
The report cited from research2guidance is Global Smarphone Application Report, 2010.
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