Fibre in the fast lane

Operators should follow certain key points when it comes to deploying and testing
Frank Kaufhold, MD, United Technologists Limited (UTEL)

The Middle East market has readily adopted Fibre to the Home (FTTH) technology and is deploying it rapidly. A recent research report by iDate and FTTH Council even states that the UAE is leading the way in the global FTTH market with over 1 million current subscribers [1]. With demand for services increasing, including the provision of value-added services such as TV and video, existing copper networks are beginning to reach their breaking point.

At UTEL, we have been researching and designing centralised copper test systems for many years and developed a good understanding of the issues operators face. After attending GITEX Technology Week in Dubai last year and speaking to many Middle East operators, we learned many of these issues are caused by poor installation work and poor record keeping that makes finding and fixing faults a major headache.

The first thing operators need to do is switch to fibre networks. Fibre optic networks are very resilient and far less prone to problems than the copper they replace. In point to point networks, there are many solutions for finding faults from simple visible light sources to complex platforms that will perform a range of tests to find almost any issue.

The situation changes somewhat when it comes to access networks that use passive optical networks (PONs) as one fibre will be shared to many individual users by using splitters. In practice, this means that looking at one optical path in the network can only be done from the end users premises with conventional test equipment. This adds massively to the OPEX of the operator and does not always guarantee success.

What operators need is a game-changing fibre optical time domain reflector (OTDR) based solution for PONs that allows users to map networks and see any changes in the network to pinpoint the problem, even if it is as simple as the user disconnecting the fibre from the optical network terminal (ONT). This unique ability to test PONs, see each individual’s ONT and find faults in the network that are causing issues enables operators to be able to decide quickly what action needs to be taken and send the right team to resolve the issue.

In addition to aiding in the operation of the networks, a centralised testing system can also help during construction to ensure that the network is installed correctly which in itself will lead to far less future issues. One of the most important issues during construction is ensuring cleanliness of the connections that are made, which if not ensured will build up a raft of future problems. A technology that allows the system to see the reflections caused by dirty or faulty connectors and then light technology is used to show the users which connectors need to be cleaned.

If operators use this type of centralised testing system to test each phase of the construction of the PON networks, they can gain control of the quality of the installation, whether installed by themselves or private installation companies.

The other big gain for operators is that each time a network is modified in any way a new reference can be generated ensuring that records are up to date and field staff is always directed to the exact location of any issue found.

It is our aim to make troubleshooting fibre optics networks easy, accurate and reliable. We will be exhibiting at a range of shows next year, including Gigabit Copper and CommunicAsia, and look forward to seeing the latest solutions for fibre networks and where other markets are in comparison to the Middle East.

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