Fiber to the Home (FTTH) can be expanded in rural regions around two and a half times faster than usual by means of above-ground cable laying. This is something pointed out by Reichle & De-Massari (R&M), the globally active developer and provider of cabling systems for high-quality network infrastructures. With a development program for products and solutions for FO aerial deployment, R&M wants to help ensure that network operators also make rapid progress in this area.
«We are committed to making FTTH expansion easier and faster in rural and suburban areas as well,» says Thomas Ritz, R&M Market Manager Public Networks. «The pandemic in 2020 once again clearly confirmed the great need for fiber optic broadband Internet access. However, the traditional subscriber network architecture is not yet ready to cope with an onslaught of spontaneous, parallel remote working, e-learning, streaming, and gaming. End-to-end FO connections to the end-user are one of the requirements for almost unlimited broadband data transmission right to the home.» Because to date, it has not really been worthwhile for telecom companies to make the large investments necessary to provide FTTH outside towns and cities, rural areas still have many underserved areas.
High durability fiber optic cables and sturdy distribution boxes
Above-ground cable laying – also called “aerial deployment” – is therefore becoming interesting again. Thomas Ritz: «Above-ground cabling has been around as long as we have had electricity and telephone networks. And FTTH can also be rolled out about two and a half times faster by means of aerial deployment and by using existing telephone or electricity company poles than with classic underground cabling.» In addition, aerial deployment is much more cost-effective than underground cabling because, among other things, less planning and personnel effort are required and existing infrastructure can be used. Robust, self-supporting high durability fiber optic cables, such as those developed by the R&M cable plant in the Czech Republic, pre-terminated customer connection cables including optical connectors, and new types of distribution boxes for pole mounting are important building blocks for above-ground cable laying.
With a new generation of FTTH distribution boxes, developed for the aerial deployment market, R&M offers an assembly technology that sets standards in terms of simplicity and flexibility. Thomas Ritz: «The new lightweight construction can be assembled on any facade or pole without the need for special tools.» The entire fiber optic cabling is in a separate tray. While one team attaches the box to the pole or facade, a second team on the ground prepares the necessary cabling. This division of labor greatly reduces assembly time. The provider can deliver broadband connectivity to customers faster and gain a market advantage.
The newly designed aerial boxes are delivered pre-terminated, e.g. with splitter modules and internal cabling, and thus fulfill a specific requirement of large telecom providers in terms of time savings and preparation for the future connection of additional subscribers to the network. The new housings are configured for climatically challenging environmental conditions and have been developed especially to appeal to emerging markets. The focus is on elementary, purpose-built FTTH distribution that can be organized flexibly to suit all kinds of residential areas. Among others, network operators from South America and the Middle East have already demonstrated great interest in R&M’s new development.
Years of experience with outdoor cabling
For decades, R&M has been developing pioneering distribution platforms, splice closures as well as distribution and termination boxes for end-to-end outdoor cabling in the FTTH infrastructure business. The Venus Box launched in 1997 was already designed with a fiber optic future in mind. R&M can now leverage these many years of global experience in the outdoor area of network expansion for aerial deployment as well. The portfolio is continuously being expanded.
Successful developments include the modular and multifunctional Polaris box housing family for Fiber to the Home building connections. These boxes are also suitable as fiber optic distributors and serving area interfaces for fronthaul network connections of 5G mobile networks. The 5G market is once again significantly boosting demand for fiber optic access in addition to traditional broadband expansion. Thomas Ritz: «Over the next few years, countless 5G access points, or «small cells», have to be connected with the FO broadband network. However, most of these fiber optic capacities have yet to be rolled out. Synergies must be exploited from planning and dimensioning to rollout scenarios between 5G FTTA and classic FTTH rollouts, as well as 5G options for broadband supply via fixed wireless access, to overcome the «last few meters» to the customers.»
This creates an additional need for innovative FO connectivity solutions, which R&M develops and brings to market. The further development of the range will follow the well-known R&M principles of innovation, modularity, fast assembly, and intuitive handling. Thomas Ritz: «We want to make a major contribution to speeding up nationwide fiber optic broadband coverage. The underlying conditions are currently ideal to rely on aerial deployment.»