4G’s Effect On Fiber-Optics And The Race For Dominance

4G’s Effect On Fiber-Optics And The Race For Dominance

By Adam Blinderman
The battle between copper and fiber cables was a short one, with telecom service providers leaning heavily into fiber-optics as a means to deliver blazing-fast connections to residential, metro and long-haul networks. 4G connections use fiber optics heavily in their backhaul (the connections from the core network to smaller sub-networks) and the increasing demand of 4G has lead to fiber dominating public networks with enterprise networks soon to follow. Data-intensive video traffic is now common and with mobile apps like Snapchat, Facebook (with its newer automatic video stream feature) and Instagram, the demand is only growing larger. The industry choice to use fiber was an obvious one when fiber boasts features like: “practically unlimited bandwidth”, high reliability, space savings, immunity to interference, and relatively lower cost. Other notable advantages over copper cable include:

  • Upgrading without needing to remove and replace copper cables, only equipment, while new fiber-optic cables lasting for 25 years or more.
  • Copper cables can extend only 100 meters while fiber-optics reach up to 30 kilometers (300 times farther).
  • Having full fiber-optic cable eliminates a huge amount of power consumption (80%) used in copper-based enterprise LANs, which is currently being spent converting the optical signal to electric and back to optical again. (coined “OEO conversions”).
  •   Optical LANs require no management, maintenance nor repair.
  • Unplanned network downtime using Optical LAN is about 5 1/2 minutes a year on average, while copper-based networks suffer from 9+ hours of downtime.
  • The cost is about 50% cheaper than installing copper cabling for LANs.

With the first cross-ocean fiber cable laid down in 1996, Fiber has quickly become the future-proof telecommunications medium our society needs to meet the demands of our growing technological culture. Today, a variety of industries including medical, military, industrial, data storage, networking/telecommunications, and broadcast apply fiber-optics in a variety of important applications. At this point a lot of telecommunications companies consider it a race for dominance. It’s not all so cut and dry, however, interestingly enough, telecom giant AT&T has recently put a halt on investments into their fiber-optic development in 100 U.S. cities over internet regulations currently being unclear. CEO Randall Stephenson voiced concern for President Obama’s stance on Net-Neutrality for which Stephenson said:

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed.”

Mr. Stephenson and AT&T have made it clear that if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chooses to follow the President’s request to impose Title II on telecommunications companies (effectively making ISPs abide by other broadcasting regulations and protecting against paid prioritization), that AT&T would respond with a lawsuit.

Sources:
AT&T to pause fiber spending on net neutrality uncertainty

(http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-at-t-regulations-internet-idUSKCN0IW1JC20141112)

Tomorrow’s networks will run on fiber optics

(http://www.tellabs.com/blog/index.cfm/2013/7/9/Tomorrows-networks-will-run-on-fiber-optics)