Fiber-optic networks in 2017: Capabilities, challenges and a way forward

Fiber-optic networks have considerable advantages over traditional copper cables, but communication service providers seem to have varied opinions over fiber's importance.

Earlier this year, Verizon inked a three-year billion-dollar deal with Corning, a manufacturer specializing in materials science, for at least 37.2 million miles of fiber optic cable, perhaps more. This announcement, however, came months after Alphabet, Google's parent company, curtailed the deployment of its own high-speed Google Fiber network of more than 100,000 miles for reasons largely undisclosed. Craig Barratt, former CEO of Access, which oversaw Google Fiber, said in a company blog post that the decision "enhances our focus on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast Internet more abundant than it is today."

As dissimilar as these events appear, they both presumably tell the same tale: Fiber, while worlds beyond the capabilities of traditional connectivity, is a pricey capital investment that requires carefully measured deployment. Be that as it may, we'd like to take some time to remind CSPs exactly what they're paying for when they finance the expansion of fiber-optic networks. Here are the top three fiber network capabilities:

1. High speed and bandwidth

According to a 2015 White House assessment of fiber-optic capabilities against those of traditional copper cable, fiber's 100-Mbps or gigabit (1,000-Mbps) speeds far outpace the average U.S. internet connection – depending on the specifications, by as much as 100 to 1.

Comparing the year-over-year gains in standard connection speeds over the last two years, which were up from around 10 Mbps in 2015 to upwards of 18 or 19 Mbps at the beginning of 2017, fiber wins. Even when considering premium broadband connections as high as 50 Mbps, fiber still wins. In short, nothing beats fiber. It's not even close.

Fiber's speed outpaces the average U.S. internet connection by as much as 100 to 1.

Of course, the ability to transfer data faster affects how much data can move between two points in a given time, which matters greatly as data transference requirements increase. As Fast Metrics illustrated, downloading a high-definition movie over today's average broadband connection would take about 32 minutes. Over 100-Mbps fiber, however, that time drops to 4.5 minutes. With a gigabit connection, 25 seconds.

2. Bandwidth scalability

Part of the reason why capital investment into fiber-optic networks intimidate CSP is because many subscribers are content with the cable or broadband service they currently receive. But as high-definition content – 4K video, etc. – becomes the new norm, traditionally sized bandwidth limits won't match these consumers' demands and fiber will take the lead.

Yet if that's true, doesn't that mean there could come a time when even fiber won't be enough to satisfy consumers? Presumably, but when that time comes, technology such as dense wavelength division multiplexing can increase bandwidth over installed fiber-optic cable during peak usage by enabling dynamic wavelength provisioning. The same can't be done for cable, since it relies on electrical impulses as opposed to light.

3. Long-distance communication

Back in March, engineers from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation developed a high-capacity single-strand fiber-optic cable that achieved 1-Pbps (petabit-per-second) speeds over more than 200 kilometers, or about 128 miles.

How powerful is 1-Pbps transmission? Researchers said it's the equivalent of sending 5,000 two-hour HD movies from Point A to Point B in a single second. The study went on the explain the experiment was so successful, researchers believe they could achieve similar results at five times the length.

Now let it be said this experiment is not representative of anything scalable at the national level, at least not yet. But it does demonstrate how resistant fiber is to attenuation over long distances. Fiber, unlike copper cable, is also resistant to electromagnetic interference, further highlighting its potential as an incorruptible next-gen communication technology.

Billing as a service for fiber-optic networks

As more CSPs move to fiber, IDI Billing Solutions wants to assist them as they create dynamic rating, billing and automation systems that minimize errors and maximize profit.

Recently, we've partnered with GoNetspeed, a high-speed fiber-optic internet and Ethernet services provider. GoNetspeed had a lot of positive things to say about CostGuard®, our award-winning B/OSS solution, and we're honored to work with them as they continue to provide incredible service to their many subscribers.

Want to learn more about how the telecom billing experts at IDI Billing Solutions can help your fiber-optic network achieve higher revenue retention? Contact us today.

October 5th, 2017|Latest News|