On the technology side, network
speeds continue to increase and create
challenges for cabling. Copper proponents are trying to make Category 8 work
as a short-distance option for data centers. Multimode fiber is also facing
problems with bandwidth in local area
networks (LANs) and data centers for
speeds greater than 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).
Many users and installers are not
happy with the large number of fibers
required by parallel optics ( 8 to 20
fibers per channel) at 40 and 100 Gbps
and have switched to single-mode fiber
with wavelength division multiplexing
(WDM) over two fibers. The multimode
people decided they could do that too.
A new generation of multimode fiber
allows WDM for up to four wavelength
channels on a pair of fibers.
The increasing use of fiber has led
to some interesting developments in
cables. This year, vendors have released
high-fiber-count cables using special
bend-insensitive fibers with smaller
diameter coatings. These products can
pack almost 2,000 fibers in a cable less
than 1 inch in diameter. It’s a trend.
Beyond that, the last year has seen
dozens of new products that promise to
be better, faster and cheaper. It’s up to
the users to determine whether that pays
off in their installations.
But the real news for contractors
is in the expanding markets for fiber
optics. Whether your specialty is premises or outside plant (OSP) installation,
there are many new opportunities to
keep you busy.
The phenomenal growth of the
Internet drives much of the fiber mar-
ket. Increased traffic requires more
long-distance fiber, more local fiber and
more fiber in data centers. The impact
of Google Fiber offering gigabit fiber-
to-the-home (FTTH) in an increasing
number of regions of the country has
driven public interest and demand for
fiber. It has stimulated telcos and cable
TV companies to upgrade by building
fiber deeper into their networks if not
all the way to the home.
One of the strongest movements we
have seen is a grassroots effort to build
fiber networks. As a result of all the
publicity about the power utility FTTH
program and Google Fiber in Chattanooga, Tenn., people are aware fiber
provides better Internet service. We have
been seeing apartment complexes, subdivisions, small towns, large towns and
even a whole state (Kentucky) committing to building their own fiber networks.
Likewise, the growth in data traffic on
smartphones, tablets and other mobile
devices is creating new markets for fiber.
Cell towers are being connected into the
phone network with fiber backhaul,
and fiber is even being used to connect
antennas on the tower to the base. Facilities such as sports arenas and convention
centers that host large crowds are being
equipped with distributed antenna systems (DASs) that may allow up to 1,000
antennas connected with fiber.
Schools, office buildings and commercial complexes are being upgraded
for cellular service and Wi-Fi to connect
all of the occupants’ mobile devices.
Changes in federal regulations mean
more schools and educational facilities
qualify for grants to pay for upgrades. At
the same time, installations are getting
LAN upgrades, some with passive optical
LANs (OLANs) based on FTTH technol-
ogy, especially in government facilities.
If not passive OLANs, users who are
upgrading are installing fiber backbones
capable of 100-gigabit to 1-terabit speeds.
At the grassroots level, Fiber Optics
Association (FOA) schools are telling us
the demand for training and trained per-
sonnel is growing rapidly. But this is not
your father’s fiber optic industry. Driven
by the changes in the marketplace, the
original reasons for adoption of fiber
optics to replace copper and micro-
wave links, the capability for greater
bandwidth and distance, are moving the
industry more toward single-mode fiber.
OSP networks have been all single-mode fiber for 30 years because of the
bandwidth and distance advantages
of single-mode. However, premises
networks are increasingly moving to
single-mode. Partly it’s because of the
incredible speeds of LAN backbones
and data center switches, but, in addition, it’s due to the familiarity with only
single-mode fiber of the manufacturers
and workers for applications like DAS,
even as they move indoors.
What we have learned from the past
year is there is plenty of business installing fiber optics, but contractors need to
get their workers trained for single-mode
installation and gear up accordingly.
That’s what I’ll be writing about in the
next few months.
2016 Fiber Update
Business is still booming, trends emerging
IN THE PAST YEAR, fiber optics underwent some important developments, some
technical and some market-related. For those of you working in fiber optic network
design and installation, the changes present opportunities and challenges.
HAYES is a VDV writer and educator and the president of the Fiber Optic Association. Find
him at www. JimHayes.com. S H