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Hidden gems

Fibre deployment is currently taking place at pace throughout the world. According to the latest study from research firm, Global Industry Analysts (GIA), the global FTTH/B market is predicted to reach S31.3bn by 2026. 

The report, Fiber-to-the-Home/Building (FTTH/B)- Global Market Trajectory &Analytics, states that the US market for FTTH/B reached an estimated S5.1 bn in the year 2021. China, the world's second-largest economy, it said, is forecast to reach a projected market size of S8.4bn by the year 2026, trailing a CAGR of 14.3 per cent over the analysis period. Among the other noteworthy geographic markets, according to the report, are Japan and Canada, each of which are forecast to grow at 10.2 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively over the period. In Europe, Germany is forecast to grow at approximately 11.5 per cent CAGR. These figures are in line with the individual market research and predictions conducted on behalf of associated bodies, such as the FTTH Council Europe and the Fiber Broadband Association. 

As the pandemic has undoubtedly demonstrated, this drive for fibre can only be a good thing in ensuring fast, reliable connectivity for all, regardless of the geographical area or type of home. But deployment is not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to multiple dwelling units (MDUs), such as apartment blocks, hotels and other commercial buildings. 

Fibre to the home 

John George, senior director, solutions and professional services at OFS, explained: 'In the past, the fibre might have been delivered to the side of the building to an optical network terminal (ONT), and the existing copper wiring would have been used with technology to support over the copper wiring to distribute the signal in the home. The predominant way now is to use a lower-cost ONT, deploy that somewhere deep in the home, and run fibre to that ONT, adjacent to the wifi router.' 

George explained that it is advantageous to put the ONT deep inside the living unit, because the more central the location, the better the wifi coverage. The challenge, however, lies in getting the fibre to the ONT. 'This was a pain point first discovered by large carriers in the mid 2000s,' he said. 'When they started building fibre into MDUs, they tried the fibre available at the time, G.657.A2 grade fibre, which is a 7.5mm bend radius fibre, and the high-bend losses were not practical. That's why the ITU developed the standard for 5mm bend radius fibre that improves the situation, but even that falls short of supporting what's needed in real deployments, based on the testing we've done and on our customers' experience.' 

Round the bend 

It was for this reason that OFS developed the G.657.B3 grade EZ-Bend fibre, which bends to 2.5mm radius and is used in the company's EZ-Bend Cables. 'You can imagine,' continued George, 'that in MDU installations, you're going to have to bend the fibre around any of the sharp corners in these buildings, and so, to conform the fibre to the building requires this type of bending that provides a neat, tidy appearance.' 

EZ-Bend uses a waveguide design that the company calls resonance assisted fibre. It was developed in OFS Labs. George said: 'We used a simulation programme that could predict the performance of thousands of waveguide designs and we iterated with that to result in the bend-resistant fibre waveguide design that provided the optimum blend of performance, while still maintaining fusion splice compatibility.' 

The EZ-Bend Cables were quickly adopted by multiple tier-I providers for just this reason, and OFS demonstrated their capabilities in comparison with C.657.A2 cables using an MDU simulation test developed by American operator, Verizon, known as the TPR-9424 MDU simulation. More information can be found on the specifics of this test and other testing in a new white paper from OFS entitled, New Technologies Enable Faster, Easier Fiber into Homes and MDUs, but suffice to say, when it came to bending loss, the EZ-Bend Cable experienced just 0.16dB compared with the G.657.A2 cable's 4.58dB loss. 

But, with the issue of bend resistance taken care of, another challenge when it comes to MDUs for service providers is consumer acceptance. 'You can imagine,' explained George, 'in some of these apartments, when work is due to begin, the service provider might arrive with this great new cable, and a staple gun and say, "I'm going to run this cable along your mouldings inside your apartment to where we put the ONT and try to hide it," and there are quite a few subscribers who would respond "l don't want somebody coming in with a staple gun and attaching cable to my mouldings, I really value the appearance of my apartment," and they would cancel the service.' 

Light fantastic 

To help to overcome this challenge, OFS further used its proven EZ-Bend technology to develop a 0.9mm fibre system called InvisiLight Solutions, which is attached by an adhesive, removing the need for stapling. Because of its size, it fits into the creases between walls and ceilings, or moldings and walls, and the benefit to installers is that the process is simple, using only a few simple tools. As for the consumer response? 'When we did the trials with end customers in apartments, they were marvelling,' said George. 'They said "l can't even see this, and it is going to carry my gigabit broadband!" They were very happy and excited about it.' 

More than 800,000 subscribers have now been connected with the InvisiLight Solutions since its inception. 'There have also been many other versions of invisible fibre proposed and rolled out,' said George, 'but they often have issues falling off the wall — it's not as easy as one would think to attach fibre in these invisible ways and keep it in place. But we've had no issues with the fibre falling off the wall, or the bending or the breaking and it's that proven technology that is very important when somebody is considering what to use. We have seen multiple tier-I operators adopt this for the benefits it brings them and to really drop down the barriers.' 

EZ-Bend@ and InvisiLight@ Solutions are registered trademarks of OFS Fitel, LLC 

Driven by unprecedented demand for Gigabit and fast-emerging 10 Gigabit Broadband, Fiber to the Home (FTTH) deployment is expected to reach record numbers in the coming years. According to iDate, FTTH connections will more than double in Europe over the next six years, while RVA forecasts that FTTH investment in North America will double in the next five years compared to the previous five. In addition to homes, service providers are bringing fiber to the living unit in multiple dwelling units (MDUs) and into commercial and institutional buildings.

New developments in next-generation, virtually invisible, faster, and easier to deploy fiber have overcome the specific challenges associated with homes and MDUs. These have been widely adopted by CSPs. This white paper explores how these new enabling technologies such as EZ-Bend® cabling and InvisiLight® Solutions can make fiber deployments faster, easier, and cost effective from outside to the inside.


Read the white paper


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