Is Plug and Play the Future of FTTH?

Service providers, consultants, engineering companies and contractors are all working together in building Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks. The methods that they’re using to build and design these networks in most cases are based around a set of traditional standards.

The largest issue when using traditional methods to build a FTTH network is that they’re very labor intensive especially in the area of splicing. In most cases, 70 percent of the capital spent is for labor. Because of this, manufacturers are being pushed to develop a more cost-effective way to build these networks.

Plug and Play the FTTH Way

So what is the next evolution in FTTH? The answer is, actually a decade old innovation whose time has come of age. That is: plug and play network elements. With this option, connectorization replaces splicing so the need for skilled labor is reduced and the cost to deploy a FTTH network goes down. When companies build a FTTH network, they have a tendency to look at labor and material costs independently. Price is where modular products still struggle when compared to more traditional network elements. However, if the total cost of labor and materials is examined together, the discovery of the modular design will win out. In addition, any time fiber terminations can be ftth fiber drop cable mass-produced indoors in a controlled environment, the cost will go down and reliability of connectors will increase.

The consumer/end-user has adopted this approach for the convenience. For example, when you go out and buy a RJ45 patch cord to provide connectivity from your modem or network interface device to your computer, the consumer “last mile,” you don’t buy it terminated on one end and not on the other. Why does service provider do it this way?

Currently, MTP/MPO connectors are available in 4-, 8-, & 12-fiber configurations. The connector gained popularity first in enterprise networks, where data was on the only content being delivered and where distance between network elements was relatively short, and the loss could be overcome. The connector for the service provider network was not nearly as popular due to the limitations in performance.

Previous versions of the MTP/MPO displayed insertion and return loss performance that was unacceptable for the tight link loss requirements for the service provider networks being built. Two to 5db of loss were not uncommon, which, if used, required, more expensive equipment to account for that kind of loss. What’s more, it was expensive to produce a multiple count fiber connector due to the precision involved in the manufacturing process. As a result, manufacturers would have to sell a large amount of the product to recoup cost before making a return on investment.

Another obstacle in producing a low count multi-fiber connector has been the division between manufacturers. Cable, fiber termination and network equipment manufacturers need to share technologies and work together to develop a group of products that will mesh. For example, no service provider is likely to jump into an expensive connector that is inconsistent in performance across all channels – especially at a level that requires more expensive gear to overcome with standardization across manufacturers.

The Only Constant is Change

A lot of things have changed. The MTP/MPO is built to a standard now. Of note is the variable male/female (with or without pins) and keyed connectors. This can still be confusing.

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