Telecom operators in the Middle East are busy readying their networks for ‘Triple Play’ to provide voice, data and video without compromising on quality in order to meet new customer demands and competition.
Most of the renowned ones have already succeeded to have a full-fledged network. But new licenced operators are doing their best to reach out to customers with bundled packages to compete with existing providers while existing telecos are hastily trying to reach out to the maximum subscribers within the shortest possible time.
Most of the fixed telecom operators are talking about Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) or Gigabit Ethernet Passive Optical Network (GEPON) technologies to cater to the increasing demand for broadband. But in the region, GPON is the technology widely accepted and followed.
For these systems the network performance depends on active equipments, but it is equally important to have quality passive components from central office to customer end. And here lies the challenges, as Passive Optical Network technology is relatively new and doesn’t have the same amount of history as traditional copper network. But now there is a demand for fibre on the access network side also, which could be FTTB or FTTH.
The design may look simple compared to ADSL or VDSL network as there is no active element in between the connectivity from central office and no hassle to provide a power supply or any other active transmission equipment in the street cabinet. The challenge is to have high quality passive components and precision in the specification. This network is going to handle voice, video and data through which one can operate services such as IPTV, VoD, upstream and downstream, so the physical layer should be good quality to provide a long term investment.
For a new telco, or an existing operator who would like to invest for the future, it is cost-effective for them to invest in fibre backbone and access network. This opens up the way to a number of new apps and services such as online backup, call centres and e-health. HD and 3D video services, market competition for higher bandwidth offering, lower maintenance and operation costs and new generation mobile network backhaul are among the main enablers in driving this technology forward. In the Middle East the main factor for the rapid growth of the industry is the entry of new telco operators into the market.
The existing operators continue to utilise and build upon their existing copper based networks while the new licenced operators are keen on rapid deployment to speed up their time to market. In both scenarios, success depends on the expertise of the vendors who can deliver the systems. So most passive networks need to be tailor made with the delivery of systems.
Traditionally the problem with tailor made solutions has been the bottle neck in deployment due to the time taken for custom development, fabrication and further deployment and field testing. The focus therefore of passive network vendors catering to the telecom domain should be on the development of products which can be customised and quickly delivered for field deployment. Flexibility and modularity of the product play a main role for a speedy deployment.
Each public network presents its own unique set of challenges which is why fulfilling individual requirements, quick adaptations and local support are fundamental to such undertakings. Environmental factors, competitive situations and legal regulations vary from site to site. Network operators follow different strategies when it comes to topology and architecture.
For operators migrating from legacy copper solutions to fibre based cabling, existing infrastructure must be integrated into feeder, drop and access areas, or hybrid cabling must be used in a transitional phase before FTTx has finally become firmly established. This requires the flexibility of combining copper and fibre optic cable on existing platforms.
Finally, building entry point and residential connections often require customer-specific modifications and aesthetic solutions. Meeting such demands increases customer acceptance and translates to greater connection volumes. Customers could be home, businesses, enterprises, IT developers, corporate or government organisations and the behaviour and demand for each one of them varies depending on their priorities, but all of them will look for a reliable network.
Telecom operators are investing long term and it is important to make sure that the network is capable of handling customers for more than 15 years.