4 Ways Integrators Are Impacted by the Increase in Fiber Demand
As you look to the future of business, there’s lots to take in: advanced robotics, machine learning, gesture recognition, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, etc. These applications will call for more bandwidth, more data and more speed—which all point to the need for more fiber.
Demand for fiber has never been greater. It’s being deployed more often—and in new types of applications—because of its potential for unlimited bandwidth, built-in security, immunity to EMI/RFI noise and ability to handle vast amounts of traffic.
In the past, fiber deployment was typically reserved for a very specific purpose: to create physical connections between countries and continents. Over time, however, the use of fiber trickled down to establish links between cities and regions—and then to connect campuses and buildings.
Today, fiber is becoming even more localized. It can be found in greenfield and brownfield applications as part of in-building backbones and data centers, tech-forward stadiums and arenas, and state-of-the-art broadcast environments. It supports technology like passive optical networks (PONs), 5G, distributed antenna systems (DASs) and AV. And there are many more fiber use cases on the horizon.
For example, the industry is experiencing a trend called “fiber deep,” where cable or direct-broadcast TV systems and operators push fiber deeper into the network to move OTT content closer to customers. This prepares them to deliver more FTTx services in the future and provides their customers with excellent service and lower latency.
As new use cases continue to emerge, there are four things integrators need to know about how fiber will affect their work.
1. Many more technicians will be needed to install fiber
While there are some similarities between fiber and copper cable deployment, there are also some considerable differences:
- Fiber cable works differently than copper cable. Copper transmits signals in the form of electrical pulses while fiber transmits signals in the form of light pulses.
- Fiber uses a different vernacular than copper cable (“connectors and adapters” vs. “jacks and plugs,” for example).
- Fiber cables are more fragile than copper cables, so they must be handled differently to avoid damage during installation.
- Cleanliness is important in fiber installation. One dirty connection can reduce optical signal strength.
As more enterprises rely on fiber to support data-heavy applications like artificial intelligence, automation and virtual reality, integrators will need more qualified technicians and installers to install fiber systems.
In the telecommunications industry, for example, it’s predicted that the prevalence of fiber broadband networks and 5G alone will create the need for 850,000 additional fiber tech jobs between now and 2025!
In addition to hiring more workers, you might want to also start searching for fiber solutions that are faster and easier to install so your technicians can get more done in less time.
2. The number of fiber connections will increase
Fiber terminations have grown from dozens in one project to hundreds, thousands and much more. Belden was involved in a recent data center project with a strand count in the millions.
As more fiber cables are deployed, more fiber connections will follow. As the number of connections grows, effective fiber management is vital to ensure uptime and efficient maintenance. Otherwise, things can become overwhelming very quickly (and get very messy as well).
Finding solutions that can support high fiber counts while also providing scalability (the ability to support even more fiber connections in the future) will be critical to help your customers maintain uptime and keep up with demand.
3. More fiber options will be available
If you haven’t noticed already, you soon will: There are lots of choices to make when it comes to fiber cable. You can find fiber cables with different:
- Construction: jacketed, armored, tight buffer, loose tube, etc.
- Strand counts: ranging from very high (1,728+ or higher) to single strand
- Ratings: plenum, riser, aerial, underground, etc.
You can also find solutions designed for specialized applications that involve lots of flex, temperature extremes, moisture, small spaces, etc.—or projects that call for the ability to deliver power and data over one fiber cable (hybrid fiber).
As new fiber use cases develop, new solutions continue to emerge.
Belden’s OptiTuff™ Mini Fiber Cables, for example, utilize advanced, ruggedized thermoplastic material as a cost-effective, top-quality alternative to traditional metal armored cable. They’re the only cables that combine the durability of metal armored solutions with the performance and installation ease of non-armored solutions.
Our Flexible Ribbon Cable provides the highest connectivity density available while also offering a small OD and superb flexibility, making it faster and easier to handle than traditional ribbon cable and creating installation possibilities in narrow pathways and small conduits.
4. New fiber technology developments will continue
As fiber use cases change, so will fiber technology. We’re hearing industry discussions about recent developments like:
- New polarity components and methods
- Smaller two-fiber MDC connectors
- New MMC multi-fiber connectors
- Multicore fiber cables that contain multiple cores within the same cladding
- Silicon photonics being used for fiber communication
Even more innovations are still in the lab, so they’re nothing to think about or plan for now. They’re not headed our way anytime soon—but they’re still good reminders of the fact that fiber is always changing.
Learn more about the future of fiber cabling, Listen to our recent webinar, where we explore how fiber works and the components necessary to create and build a high-performance fiber cabling solution.