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Fiber’s time has arrived

The glut that everyone talked about a few years ago is quickly fading as new initiatives and applications come along.


May 1, 2004  


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I know all of us have heard that the telecom meltdown a few years ago left the industry with too much fiber, but that glut is in long-haul transmission or wide area networks (WAN). I predict that applications coming on board will soon start to use the excess quickly.

Fiber use in local area networks (LAN) and metropolitan area networks (MAN) will grow, and along with growth comes opportunities for our industry through manufacture, design and installation.

The traditional view has always been to position copper cabling as the best choice for horizontal infrastructure due to cost factors, namely that copper cabling and electronics cost less than their fiber counterparts and that tooling and labour costs are lower for copper infrastructure installations.

We also see that copper keeps coming up with good solutions that will satisfy end users until at least 2010 with category 6 and category 6 enhanced and through the latest push by IEEE to develop 10 Gigabit over copper.

In this view, optical fiber cabling is reserved for in-building and campus backbone applications.

More recently, the telecommunications enclosure (TE) has been approved for use as a facility space for horizontal distribution, providing greater flexibility than the traditional telecommunications room (TR).

Now, optical fiber, combined with high-performance wireless LAN access points (AP), can entirely replace the need for copper cabling in the horizontal space, especially since the wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies are capable of carrying both data and wireless voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) traffic.

For example, up to eight IEEE 802.11a APs using non-overlapping channels can be used in the same physical coverage zone. Each AP operates in the same manner as a 54 Mb/s shared hub, which is adequate for most business applications.

Anyone planning a communications infrastructure for a new facility (especially a leased space) should investigate the cost and flexibility advantages provided by TEs, optical fiber, and WLANs.

As cell phones remind us, copper cabling is 20th century technology.

Broadband IP view

In addition, telcos and cablecos have a competitive battle on their hands. Internet protocol (IP) has enabled cablecos to offer local phone service. DSL (digital subscriber line) technology has promised to enable telcos to offer high bandwidth services such as video on demand and multiple TV channels.

But, unless some new technology or improvement to DSL is made, many traditional phone companies will have to look at upgrading to fiber in order to be competitive with the high speed broadband services required to support voice, video, and data services to the home.

In fact, many companies are already making huge infrastructure upgrades to fiber in order to compete with the companies that use coaxial cable and coax’s ability to deliver high bandwidth services.

But even then, these coax networks are also being supplemented with fiber to beef up bandwidth capacity and service capacity. The start of a big “fiber-to-the-home/curb” push is underway.

Judging by these views, fiber certainly has its place in the information transport systems we design, install, and support.

BICSI offers many opportunities for members and other telecommunications professionals to hone their skills in fiber optic networking design, installation, and support.

BICSI’s three-day training course, FO110: Fiber Optic network Design offers the latest design methodologies and focuses on fiber optic design rules, available options, use of existing standards, and the process of cost analysis.

On the installation end, BICSI presents OF100: Optical Fiber Installation Theory and Technique. In addition to learning basic optical fiber theory and design criteria, students learn the basics of fiber manufacturing and characteristics of various light sources, as well as cable pulling techniques.

The hands-on sections of the class provide attendees with the skill required to properly terminate UV and adhesive connectors. Students will also learn to perform a mechanical splice.

Finally, in order to write this column I contacted experts to help me present two views highlighting fiber as an infrastructure element and showing support for its increased use.

My thanks go out to BICSI members Cory Boon, RCDD/LAN Specialist; John Discenza, and Steve Kepekci, RCDD/LAN Specialist, for their expert advice.

Roman Dabrowski, RCDD, is the Canadian Director of BICSI and a sales consultant with Bell Nexxia. He can be reached via e-mail at rdabrowski@bicsi.org.


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