Saving A Fiber Optic Cable Before It Breaks

by http://www.fiber-mart.comThere are myriad of stories where fiber optic cables are broken and resources are marshalled to find the location of the break and fix the fiber.  In the United States over a 9 month period monitoring a Google Alerts feed there were over 120 reported fiber optic cable breaks. Since most breaks never get reported it can be assumed that this is only a small fraction. I’ve written about the importance of documenting the fiber optic network in order to make it faster to repair broken fibers (Where’s The Fault: My Introduction to “WTF”).  But, what if a prospective break could be found before a fracture actually occurred?  If a fiber in distress can be discovered before damage is done resources and reputation can be saved.  That was the case with a Singapore based communication service provider. This service provider knows the importance of monitoring the network, especially with all of the construction in Singapore and surrounding areas where their network exists.  They had installed the Fiber Guardian from Exfo ( to help ensure the security of their network.  The Fiber Guardian inserts light into the fiber to actively monitor it using OTDR technology.  The results of the active monitoring are compared to a baseline OTDR trace. If there are differences between what is found and what is expected the Fiber Guardian will go into alarm and send email and text messages to specified service technicians.  What helps make the Fiber Guardian so valuable is that it is linked to a street map with the monitored fiber optic cables superimposed. This isn’t a typical map. It is housed within a special software application called Fiber Test InSight ( that is designed to use the length to the fault contained within the Fiber Guardian alarm and find the location on a map.  Thus, not only are technicians notified that there is a problem, they are directed to where the problem is.  Late last year technicians for this Singapore based service provider received email and SMS indicating there was degradation in their network.  They quickly went to the location they were directed to by Fiber Test Insight and Fiber Guardian. Once there, they found a massive construction project.  They noticed that the conduit their cables were in had a sharp bend that was compromising their fiber optic cable. They showed this to the on-site project manager who subsequently was able to secure the damaged pipe.  Finding this cable probably prevented a major outage and saved a tremendous amount of resources in time and repair. Mark this up to another example of the importance of proactively preparing for the inevitable by managing the fiber optic network.  Interesting side note, this one incident justified the cost for their fiber monitoring solution. 

What You Need to Know Before Deploying Your FTTH Network


So you’ve chosen a design for your FTTH network. And you’ve evaluated it to ensure that it’s a good investment for you and your potential subscribers.

Now, it’s time to prep for deployment.

Here are a few other factors to consider before you begin rolling out cable:

  • The skill of your labor force
  • Existing fiber infrastructure in your market
  • Your other fiber developments
  • Future integrations with broader networks
  • Government regulations

Is your existing labor force skilled enough to build your proposed network?

When it comes to network deployment, you can either choose to manage the project in-house or go with a third-party developer. You typically pay a premium to go the outsourcing route. However, if your labor force isn’t well equipped to deploy the specific architecture you need, you risk investing significant time and capital on a network that won’t perform well.

Provide high-quality training and education for your critical personnel or bring in a fiber developer who specializes in building your particular type of architecture.

What fiber infrastructure already exists in the market?

Before spending any capital on network components, cables, and installation fees, see if there is any existing infrastructure in place that you can leverage. This could help you save labor and material costs, in addition to speeding up your time to deployment.

You must ensure that your hardware can integrate seamlessly with what already exists if you need to fill in gaps within the existing infrastructure. Otherwise, you could end up spending more to fix faulty connections and troubleshoot other issues.

What additional FTTH network developments do you have in process?

If you are planning to deploy several FTTH networks simultaneously, think about how you can leverage economies of scale across your different projects. Purchase essential fiber network components and cables in bulk and follow the same design standards from project-to-project.

This way, it’s much easier to manage multiple builds at once while also reducing your total implementation costs. If possible, streamline your training efforts and educate network technicians in the same way so that all developments follow the same design processes.

Can your network easily be integrated into a broader network?

We also touch on this particular point in our design evaluation article as it is a very important consideration for fiber operators. In the future, another FTTH network may want to purchase and absorb your existing network. Your network is more valuable if it can be easily integrated into someone else’s architecture.

You may also reach a point where you want to purchase someone else’s fiber network. Perform a thorough evaluation of what it would really cost to combine your network with someone else’s infrastructure. As FTTH deployments continue to increase nationwide and competition grows in individual markets, this is a critical consideration to keep in the back of your mind.

What are the government regulations around FTTH?

Before deploying your FTTH network, you also need to make sure you understand every government regulation in the local market that could impact your project. You should have a thorough understanding of the documents, permits, and easements you need before you break any ground.

Rules can differ drastically across municipalities and countries. For example, in some regions, you may need a “Certificate of Public Convenience.” Other areas may enforce “Dig Once” policies, preventing network developers from uprooting the same ground for incremental installations. “Pole Attachment Agreements” may be required for any FTTH projects involving aerial fiber use.

On top of documentation requirements, your field techs and designers should also understand all local fiber optic standards and codes. These details can impact which materials you are able to use. Stateside, cabling standards are set by Telcordia or TIA. Internationally, standards may be instituted by ITU or ISO/IEC depending on where you are.

You may also need sign-offs from local professional engineers, architects, and organizations for certain aspects of your development. Fiber installations in public areas may require supervision from local authorities in the form of traffic management or protection.

Turning Over Every Stone

FTTH network development is very exciting. However, you need to make sure you have considered every deployment variable, from existing infrastructure to local government regulations, before getting started. Turn over every stone now and mitigate future risk that could throw off your project.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Municipal Fiber Networks?

by http://www.fiber-mart.comMunicipal fiber networks have both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, municipal networks are an effective solution for delivering high-speed public broadband services in areas with limited ISP coverage. On the other hand, building and managing a fiber network independently can be very challenging. As an operator, you need a balanced perspective on municipal networks so that you can best serve your government clients. The Advantages of Municipal Fiber NetworksOne of the main reasons why communities invest in municipal networks is that they “level the playing field” for subscribers. Through municipal networks, communities create competitive marketplaces in which consumers have a choice over who provides their broadband services. With the right network design, local governments can encourage participation from multiple service providers, thereby incentivizing them to innovate and price fairly. As a result, residents often have access to high-speed internet at a lower cost than they would otherwise. In many communities with publicly available internet, the “digital divide” is less prominent as households have equitable access to quality broadband. Municipal networks also help promote community-wide economic development. With widespread access to fast internet, businesses are able to participate in the global economy and leverage next-generation technologies much more easily. Another major benefit of municipal networks is that local governments can closely monitor the services provided by participating ISPs. Consequently, these ISPs can be held accountable to certain performance standards and ensure that community members get the services they deserve. The Disadvantages of Municipal Fiber NetworksOn the downside, municipal networks can be very complex to manage. In smaller communities, it can be hard to find personnel with expertise in taking big fiber development projects from start to finish. This is especially true for municipal networks that lease capacity to several ISPs simultaneously. The more stakeholders there are, the more challenging the network is to maintain for all who are involved. In addition, the upfront and ongoing costs of deploying a municipal network can be significant. Taxpayer dollars are at stake, which can be scary in communities with limited experience running profitable fiber networks. Local governments need to be prepared for extended periods of time with little cash flow and carefully project their financials over the long term. Without the right incentives in place, internet service providers may also be hesitant to participate in open access networks. If population density is too low, competition is too intense, or wholesale pricing for cable capacity is too high, ISPs won’t see the value in providing services over municipal networks. Close collaboration is necessary to ensure that everyone can benefit from a municipal network launch. Because local governments oversee municipal networks, some residents and businesses carry privacy concerns. There is a degree of monitoring that must exist in order for communities to evaluate whether or not their networks are fulfilling their original purposes. This public oversight may be too much of a deterrent in certain parts of the country.

What Are The Critical Decisions Involved In Designing Fiber Optic Networks?

by http://www.fiber-mart.comThere are many decisions that need to be made during the fiber network design phase. However, these decisions can be grouped into higher-level buckets that make it easier for operators to prioritize. The Primary GoalFirst and foremost, operators need to have a clear sense of the overarching purpose of a new network. Nearly all critical design decisions flow from this point. Fiber networks can be designed for long-distance or same-site communication. Long-distance communication is primarily supported by outside plant networks which can carry signals across hundreds or thousands of miles. More and more, outside plant networks are delivering digital information directly to homes or commercial buildings as fiber optic technology has grown more sophisticated and cost effective. Premises networks, on the other hand, are used for short-range communication and often support computer networks, security systems, and other similar applications. In these networks, it is still common to see copper and coaxial cables as the primary medium through which signals are transmitted. Once the primary goal is established, operators can choose which communication system they will support and what transmission equipment is needed. Financial SuccessFiber operators and network owners must define “financial success” for the proposed network development. In addition to calculating projected CapEx and OpEx, it’s important for those involved to have a sense of what revenue and profit per customer they need to achieve an attractive return on investment. Additionally, calculations should factor in the time horizon needed to recoup upfront costs. Even if a network runs profitably from year to year, it may not make sense to move forward with a project that will take more than 20 years to breakeven. Overall, there are many different financial calculations and strategies that operators can use to qualify their project before investing significant time or money. Transmission EquipmentThe two biggest factors when it comes to choosing transmission equipment are distance and bandwidth. It’s crucial to know both how far and how fast a network needs to carry signals to end users. During this step, it’s important for operators to engage with the network owners and manufacturers to ensure that the right equipment is selected for the intended design. Equipment decisions vary drastically depending on if operators are preparing to support long, undersea routes or short links in dense cities or campuses. Network LayoutNext, operators can start to think about the actual layout of their networks. To start, designers should create both a high-level and low-level view of the proposed fiber network. The high-level design is intended to paint an overall picture of the architecture, signal flow, and relationships between crucial components. It also helps estimate costs before diving into the nuances of the network. The low-level design adds a layer of detail to the high-level design and defines the logic that will drive the individual components. With the theoretical designs built, designers can then move to drawing layouts that correspond to real geographic areas. The physical landscape, natural or built, has a major impact on how cables are installed. Operators should consult with architects, building managers, and engineers to obtain architectural drawings for any infrastructure through which cables will run. It is not uncommon for larger networks to require multiple types of cable placements in order to cover wide areas. Fiber may need to run underground, along roads, over telephone poles, underwater, or through conduits depending on the local geography. At this stage, operators should also decide whether their network will be active or passive. Active networks manage signal distribution “actively” using electrically powered switching equipment. Passive networks rely on optical splitters to send signals where they need to go. Although operators can make a lot of progress with digital planning and mapping, they should also make on-site visits, travel along proposed cable routes, and inspect buildings. Doing so enables them to see obstacles that may not be obvious otherwise. Additionally, some local entities may have useful information on where pathways or conduits exist for other cables. Visiting local professionals can lead to insights that could save time and money on unnecessary construction. When designing the actual layout of a network, it’s helpful to have a GIS platform capable of mapping geological data, such as roads, buildings, and local landscapes, alongside potential cable routes. That way, it is easy to visualize networks in the environments in which they will actually exist. Regulatory RequirementsBefore breaking any ground, operators should conduct utility research and ensure they can legally place cable and build out their desired network infrastructure. Some governments may prohibit or restrict certain types of fiber network developments. Next, operators need to obtain all necessary permits, permissions, easements, and inspections. Every market is different, which is why it is helpful to have professionals on the team who fully understand the regulatory nuances in the area. Operators should also reach out to agencies that have information regarding power lines, gas lines, and other hidden infrastructure that could cause harm to personnel if impacted during installation. Many local governments enforce a “Dig Once” policy, which encourages operators to install excess cables during initial installations. Doing so reduces future construction and disruption, especially in dense metropolitan areas. Operators should plan for future growth along their networks and place enough cable to support in-market expansion. Network ComponentsOnce operators feel comfortable with their routes and have thoroughly vetted the build area, they are ready to select network components. The type of cable needed depends on the design and installation approach. For example, if a developer decides to install cables in conduits underground for an OSP network, he or she needs cables that can withstand high pulling tension, especially for longer routes. If cables are going to be buried directly in the ground, they should be armored and capable of withstanding high pressures, animal biting, and sharp rocks. With aerial installations, cables need to be securely fitted to telephone poles. The method by which cables are secured depends on the specific situation and what other wires may already exist along the route. For underwater installations, cables should have strong and sealed external layers that can exist without degrading for many years. Cables for premises networks are typically distribution or breakout cables. Distribution cables are smaller in diameter and hold more fibers. However, they must terminate inside wall boxes or patch panels. Breakout cables are better suited for industrial applications and can make direct connections without any hardware. For each of these installation approaches, operators must also choose corresponding splicing and termination hardware. It is highly recommended that fiber network operators create materials lists consisting of all components and conservative quantities for the entire network. These lists are used to estimate material costs and provide installation teams with a full summary of what is needed. Installation & TestingFiber network installation involves many specialized teams and skills. The biggest challenge at this stage is coordinating all efforts effectively to ensure that everything is completed in the right order. Project managers should work with team leads to obtain conservative estimates on completion times and understand the full scope of what is being accomplished at all times. Inevitably, there will be challenges and issues that arise. There should always be a project manager or technical expert onsite who can review installation progress. It’s also necessary to have someone who can be reached 24/7, especially since many installations are done at night. Even with a well-planned and executed installation process, there may be equipment issues that need to be addressed. For this reason, operators should have thorough plans around testing components and evaluating overall network performance. Installation teams should also visually inspect all components to check for physical damages. Before installation begins, project leads and network owners should specify exactly what equipment should be tested, how test results are documented, and what metrics are expected. Many projects test every individual fiber and component before installation and then conduct follow-up assessments as segments are placed. Network owners often want to see test data that proves their networks operate as expected.

How Should You Plan For A Fiber Installation?


After a network is designed, installation teams are ready to move forward. Installing fiber networks can be overwhelming as there are many teams to coordinate and tasks to execute. It’s important to develop an organized installation process and ensure all those involved are clear on their responsibilities.
Master Task List
One of the best ways to stay on track during a fiber installation is to create a master task list of all activities that need to be completed. Every fiber development is unique, which is why the master task list will differ from project to project.
It’s important to recognize that not all tasks will be completed sequentially. Some can move forward in parallel while others must be done in a particular order.
Consult all parties involved in a development to ensure that every critical step is captured and recorded. Every task should be listed with clear descriptions, completion dates, and contact information for whoever is on point. Any component purchases should list vendors, prices, expected delivery dates, and delivery locations.
Project Manager
Every network development needs a project manager who is involved from start to finish. The project manager should be apprised on the overall goal of the development, the layout of the network, the technical requirements, and the key people or organizations involved. The project manager should also have a replacement who can step in should the need arise.
The project manager is responsible for ensuring the network installation is carried out successfully and safely. He or she can use the master task list and any other project management tools to keep teams organized and on track. Involving project managers as early as possible in the design process can be helpful for making sure they are fully equipped with all of the information and context they need to be successful.

How Do You Choose A Contractor To Build The Fiber Network?

Network contractors are tremendously important to the overall success of the fiber development project. Potential partners should be evaluated on a number of metrics before moving forward with an installation. Network contractors should be experienced and knowledgeable in every area of the fiber network design phase. They should have sharp design skills and expertise in the local geography, in addition to a working understanding of critical success factors related to the specific market. Contractors must also have vast technical proficiency and know how all network components work together. On the installation side, contractors should include network testing within the scope of the engagement and help prepare for future troubleshooting. They should also be committed to clear documentation practices and ensure that all recordkeeping is up to defined standards. Finally, fiber network contractors should have all of the necessary certifications in the field. Ask potential partners to furnish up-to-date records that prove they operate in full compliance with industry standards.