Product Article: Connecting the Home - the age of fibre has arrived

By Jonathan Pengilley, Habitech. To look at residential networks installed over the last decade, you would not believe that super-efficient fibre technology has been around longer than UTP copper. Traditionally, integrators have viewed fibre as a costly alternative to CAT cable, but today, as fibre broadband inches ever closer to the drives of properties all over the country, the argument for fibre in the home has never been stronger. Fibre Advantages The advantages of fibre over copper are well understood. Transmitting data with light is a lot more efficient and reliable than sending electricity down copper, and while UTP technology has gone through at least six generations to keep up with bandwidth requirements, it is a tortoise to the fibre hare. The potential of these little tubes is unlimited. Higher frequency capability allows fibre to transfer more data, in less time, over longer distances than copper. It does not degrade like copper, requires little maintenance and has versatile capacity because light signals are easier to boost. [caption id="attachment_7050" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Fibre optic cable has many advantages over copper.[/caption] Across its operating band, fibre loses a fraction of its signal strength over 100m, while copper can lose up to 94% over the same distance. Fibre is not susceptible to EMI/RFI interference or acts of God such as a lightning strike, and by being much lighter but stronger than steel, can safely be pulled at eight times the tension limits of a CAT cable. Truly Future Proof So far so good, but the best thing about fibre is that the infrastructure is future proof. Even with the advent of 4K and eventually 8K on demand and in multiple user deployment, there is no conceivable device scenario that could exhaust the bandwidth potential of fibre-optic cable. Last year, Alcatel-Lucent set a new world record by using fibre to send data at 31Tbps (Terabits per second) over 7200km! Trials such as this give observers the confidence to predict that in the near future, you and I should be enjoying broadband speeds of up to 2Gbps. There are sceptics among us who remain to be convinced. They do not believe that superfast fibre broadband will be testing the limits of copper infrastructure any time soon. After all, even if there is fibre somewhere in the road, broadband will still have to trundle down old copper to the home, and 6Mbps is fine - until your clients try to stream two HD movies at the same time whilst Jocasta wants to watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. Inevitably, market dynamics will demand the support of a fibre backbone from the street to every room in the home. Even now, with FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) in place at up to 10 times the speed of copper broadband, families are sucking up bandwidth like a giant digital sponge. [caption id="attachment_7048" align="aligncenter" width="595"] Families are sucking up bandwidth like giant a digital sponge.[/caption] Fibre is Getting Ever Closer With fibre broadband moving closer to your clients, the pressure on ISPs to close the fibre loop is unrelenting. Aided by the Government's Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative, UK ISPs such as BT, B4RN, Hyperoptic and CityFibre are rolling out high-speed FTTP/FTTH (Fibre to the Premises/ Fibre to the Home) broadband services, which provide a superfast end-to-end fibre optic connection all the way from the exchange to the home. Presently, BT's FTTP product delivers 330Mbps downloads (with 1Gbps anticipated) and 20-30Mbps uploads. B4RN offers a symmetric (i.e. in both directions) 1Gbps connection. The SEP's ambition to extend Superfast Broadband (24Mbps+) to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017 includes the GBPú35m+ Superfast Surrey project and a similar scheme in Rutland, both nearing completion. Elsewhere, BSkyB, TalkTalk and CityFibre are collaborating in a super-speed broadband network for the City of York, independent of BT's infrastructure; and just announced, Subtopia is planning to offer FTTP at Gbit speeds to both residential and business users in Birmingham. Clients are Willing to Pay for Quality There is plenty of debate on the forums about the cost of FTTP limiting demand, but so what? The higher costs are unlikely to deter wealthy stockbroker clients who need the assurance of an unbreakable fat pipe 24/7. Your customers will pay for the best service - especially if it is exclusive - and even when the prices eventually come down, as inevitably they must, future-ready fibre will add value to their homes. It is fast becoming a highly marketable feature. Until now, the perceived costs of fibre have limited its integration in the home, but the argument for optics is just as compelling between rooms as it is from the telco's exchange. It is not only the price of fibre that is plummeting. The technology around fibre has improved to the point where termination time is a cost in decline and the practical challenges posed by poor bend and humidity tolerance have been nigh-on eliminated. Time Saving with Cleerline's Non-Strip-Fibre Cable Before recent advances, even a modest home with around fifteen fibre drops could cost an integrator at least half a day of termination hell. Habitech's experience with Cleerline's innovative Non-Strip-Fibre (NSF) cable changes everything. The specialised Kevlar jacket surrounding the NSF product makes it impregnable to abuse and easy to terminate. [caption id="attachment_7049" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Composition of the Cleerline fibre optic cable.[/caption] It will withstand a bend radius of 10mm, removes the incidence of the dreaded micro-fractures in so-called 'dark' installations and can be terminated safely using a simple cut-cleave-connect process in as little as 60 seconds! Think how much time you will save over the life of the project and the gains you will make if you charge the going rate. When you add in the lower cost of media converters and the savings that you will make from longer runs between repeaters, plus the value of much greater reliability and future-proof capacity, it is easier to calculate the huge cost of not installing fibre. Conclusion In new builds, fibre is a no-brainer, but even in existing properties you will profit by chasing-in a backbone that will last 25 years, especially if you install a large fibre- count cable with lots of spare single-mode fibres. So with high-speed fibre broadband creeping up the drive and the cost of building the fibre infrastructure to meet it at an all-time low, the opportunity has come to capitalise on the enduring benefits of a well-installed fibre optic network. It will never disappoint a client, and your reputation for cutting-edge design will be forever enhanced. Jonathan Pengilley is the Managing Director of Habitech, a value added distributor of home entertainment and home automation products. Comments on this article are welcome. See below.

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