Monday, August 18, 2008

There Will Be Fiber

The 19th century saw the gold rush. The 20 century saw the oil boom. This is the century of Fiber. Fiber optic communication is the new currency of high tech business operations. Like in those earlier boom times, there is a wealth of opportunity just ripe for clever entrepreneurs, wildcatters if you will, to bring in the supply that meets the almost insatiable desire for high bandwidth communications channels. Their excitement is only increased by the availability of a new technology that has the potential to completely change the competitive landscape.

Imagine this scene. Two telecommunications service providers are discussing the business environment. One is heavily invested in supporting a century's worth of installed copper trunk lines. The other is a rival upstart installing fiber cables as fast as possible. Their conversation goes something like this...

"You guys with your glass fibers are hitting a roadblock, aren't you? It's easy when there is open right-of-way land available and you can just trench to your heart's content. But what about here in the city? What makes you think that anyone is going to fork over the capital that metro fiber installation requires?"

"Bandwidth! Bandwidth, copper man. You're drained dry when it comes to higher bandwidth. But there's an infinite bundle of bandwidth opportunity right under our feet and no one can get at it except for me!"

"Fiber access is too expensive. Customers are just going to have to lease our copper circuits."

"No. Not anymore. I've got the new system from Kabel-X. Here, pay attention to this. Say you have a copper cable and I have a fiber cable, and I have Kabel-X. You following me? And my Kabel-X reaches doooooooowwwnn into your cable trench and starts to pump your cable full of extraction fluid... I... pull out... your.... copper!"

[sucking sound}

"I pull the copper core right out of your cable! Then I put my fiber bundles into the hollow outer jacket of the cable that is still left in the ground. A copper trunk becomes a fiber trunk."

The copper-based provider sighs. "I'm finished"

This may sound like movie fiction, but it's real. The Kabel-X system is currently deployed in Europe with pilot testing in Africa and Asia. It uses a patented process involving a biodegradable lubricating fluid that is injected between the copper inner core of a large communications cable and the protective outer jacket. The pressure of the working fluid allows the copper core to break free of the outer jacket. The core is then winched out, leaving a hollow conduit that can be filled with fiber bundles. Up to 400 meters of installed cable can be worked at one time, with only a small manhole needed to access the existing cable.

Amazingly, this system works with most any type of telecommunications cable including those jacketed by lead, aluminum, steel welded, copper, or pvc. It also works with coaxial and power cables. Anywhere from an hour and a half to five hours are needed to complete the process.

Kabel-X offers a double win with this system. First, telecommunications infrastructure can be upgraded without having to rip-up the old cable and the surrounding land, buildings and roadway. Second, the extracted copper can be sold for recycling to defray some of the cost involved in the system upgrade. Copper is a metal in demand right now and is commanding a good price.

How soon American service providers start replacing their copper infrastructure with fiber in-situ remains to be seen. One technology that has staved off a crisis is EoC or Ethernet over Copper. New modulation techniques and pair bonding permit runs of up to a few miles to transport Ethernet at 10 Mbps to DS3 at 45 Mbps, and even approaching Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps on short runs. But these are stopgap measures at best. Once the demand for bandwidth starts to broach Gigabit Ethernet speeds for wide area networks, copper will have likely seen its day for good. From then on, it's fiber as far as the eye can see... or the laser can transmit.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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