Taking a modular connectivity approach to make FTTH Deployments faster and easier
Service providers aiming to accelerate fibre deployment to provide competitive connected experiences and prepare for capacity expansion are facing new challenges.
As fibre goes deeper into the network, sourcing a huge variety of enclosures and terminals, training technicians, and deploying fibre quickly becomes increasingly complex. Enclosures, terminals, closures, hubs, cabinets, and other devices all need to be tailored to different fibre capacities, technologies, cable gauges, splice counts, connector types, mounting requirements, and environmental protection needs. Large service providers often have tens of thousands of fibre SKUs in inventory. Our own connectivity portfolio contained some 2,500 hardened fibre terminal options.
The conflict between volume and variation made it hard to meet needs quickly, develop networks rapidly and efficiently, and scale production. New solutions required development time and added more product variations. So CommScope embarked on a transformational journey, starting with a deep dive into customer needs, gathering input from over 25 global service providers and conducting concept testing sessions including third-party installers to understand how products were used—and pushed beyond their intended use.
A closer look at today’s challenges
A Heavy Reading Survey showed that 53.5 per cent of respondents plan to deploy fibre deep in the network by 2023 and 44.1 per cent plan to deploy FTTH to meet bandwidth demand. But as fibre goes deeper, challenges increase. Diverse architectures and applications require many product configurations, components, spares, and bring training and operational complexities.
Deploying fibre requires skilled labour. The FTTH last mile is complicated, with multiple variations including spliced, connectorised, and hardened drops. However, experienced technicians are difficult to find and expensive to train.
Solutions installed today must be ready for rapid technology evolution, addressing the technologies of today as well as tomorrow. Fibre connectivity advancements such as rollable ribbon cables, multi-fibre connectivity, WDM, and fibre flex foils require closures and terminals designed to serve the present, as well as anticipate the future.
A highly competitive environment for service providers who want to retain existing customers, while attracting new ones. The need to respond faster to market demand is increasingly important. This trend is expected to continue as service providers prioritise broadband investments and public funding for broadband increases.
Based on the research, three principles emerged as the foundation for a new FTTH design approach:
How modularity benefits FTTH deployments
CommScope found a common thread in the solution to these trends and challenges: offer the most connectivity configurations with the fewest components. Then, we examined the principle of modularity. Components with standardised interfaces can be connected in any configuration that suits a service provider’s technology and architectural requirements. Modular design, a proven methodology in industries with similar challenges required a new end-to-end operational framework from R&D, operations, marketing, sales, field applications engineering and customer service.
Common building blocks with standardised interfaces reduce the number of modules and boost connectivity configurations, enabling fibre deeper in the network.
Deploy fibre with less skilled labour. Installers only need to be trained once on the system-wide installation and assembly process.
Keep up with rapid technology evolution. Modules in an installed base can easily be updated to accommodate technology changes, reducing the need to replace and retest products.
Service providers can be more agile and seize new opportunities in competitive environments with the right products in the right volume, and a shorter time to market.
A modular and universal mounting system simplifies installation substantially and reduces CommScope’s number of mounting products from 224 to 5 - a 98% reduction. A new silicone gel allows a single sealant to cover a wide diameter range of cables, jacket thicknesses, and cable sizes in different portions of the network. Installers only need training once.
Products in CommScope’s new NOVUX line can hold a branded ID plate. New plates can be printed in an hour. These carry QR codes that can link to installation instructions or other information. RFID tags will also be added, speeding up identification, improving monitoring, and providing additional information to technicians.
On cable termination units (CTUs) interfaces are standardised. The service provider can attach any size cable without using a wide variety of CTUs. The number of attachments has been cut by 85-90 per cent from 134 to 12-13 modules.
In short, the new modular approach successfully provides solutions for today’s key deployment challenges: keeping up with technology evolution, reducing the number of modules while boosting the number of possible configurations, increasing service providers’ agility and speed, and reducing skilled labour and training requirements.