With the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) state allocations announced on June 26, states are now proactively creating plans to build high speed broadband networks to the unserved and underserved – all the way down to the last home or business on the farthest dirt road of every community.
In this On Topic, you’ll get a deep look at the critical impact fiber is making in rural communities. You’ll see how providers are able to make such a profound difference in these economies, as well as the technical “how-to” that makes these accomplishments possible.
Hi, I’m Mark Boxer, Technical Manager with OFS, and here’s what’s new in my world.
The first waves of fiber deployments were focused on single family homes and for good reason. There wasn’t as much demand for bandwidth and MDU or multi dwelling units and 15 to 20 years ago we just really didn’t have the same products that are now routinely used in MDUs. You know MDUs 15-20 years ago were some expensive science projects. So much has changed and it really can now make sense to do MDUs first.
So, first, broadband demand rises in single family homes and MDUs, and the commercial and regulatory environments are also changing. And very importantly the industry has responded with new products and installation methods that dramatically simplify the installation process and then to use. So as an industry we’ve learned that fiber installations and MDUs need to be fast, easy, and not visible – to preserve the building decor. The fiber also needs to be able to withstand the many bends of an apartment. InvisiLight Solutions enable these types of installations.
We’ve also discovered that with these tools, fiber installations for MDUs really have now flipped the script so these solutions are fast. They’re easy and inexpensive to install, meaning these installations can also be very profitable for network operators to deploy.
At a time when outside plant cable lead times may be long, indoor fiber products may have shorter lead times, which means that service could be turned up more quickly. We’ve also discovered that with these tools, the products can be installed with the minimal amount of training. A crew can be up and running within minutes to hours. Or, as we’ve heard people say before, on Thursday he’s a taxi driver, on Friday he’s an InvisiLight installer.
It can make sense for a service provider to consider MDUs first. So, let’s take a closer look. The Ultra bend insensitive fiber standard that’s used in these builds is G.657B3 and the OFS brand name for this fiber type is EZ-Bend fiber. You can bunch it up and tie it into knots. You can run into very tight angles and staple it with little added loss.
Many MDUs have lots of bends, and if you use a typical outside plant cable to do what I just did with the knot, then that would turn out the lights. However, we routinely deploy EZ-Bend and InvisiLight in environments with dozens of 90-degree angles, with no issues.
So, I was on a MDU build a couple of weeks ago where we went through forty-five 90-degree angles, two splices, and two connectors. The result was a loss of less than half a DB from the splitter to the ONT, and frankly that’s impressive.
The term InvisiLight is a nod to the light that goes into the fiber and the fact that it’s also almost invisible to the resident. Out of sight, out of mind. These products are deployed in minutes.
Deploying to MDUs can be fast and inexpensive to deploy, inconspicuous with low optical loss, and reasonably available supply chain. When you add these benefits together, it’s worth considering MDUs first. That’s what’s new in my world.
Visit our step-by-step Invisilight MDU/ILU product configurator for starting a Bill of Materials for your building.
This configurator is designed for buildings with riser spaces and indoor hallways. Additional options are available.
Hi, I’m John George, Senior Director of Solutions Engineering and Fusion Splicers at OFS. What’s new in my world is our new MDU!Click® Solution for fiber deployment in buildings.
With the MDU!Click Solution we can defer the cost of a splitter module until we have a higher take rate on each floor. This is for a pay-as-you-grow kind of deployment. It’s used for a second, or third entrant into the building, fiber to the business deployments, or maybe high take rates aren’t expected initially and there’s a desire to defer the cost of the build as much as possible with subscriber growth.
The way the system works is we have a MDU!Click SlimBox® Flex Indoor Module in the MDF the entry point of the building with a one by four or one by eight splitter feeding through the EZ-Bend® 12 or 24 fiber riser cable. You can see this is a very compact cable that can fit in limited spaces. We’re breaking out a single fiber so we can support one subscriber per floor in the initial deployment. Then, we can connect that first subscriber by plugging in one of our EZ-Bend Jumpers – a drop cable assembly that can go many hundreds of feet if needed.
The EZ Bend cable has a 2.5 millimeter bend radius to handle the cornering in the buildings that’s often required. Then, to add more than one subscriber on each floor, we simply put in place our MDU!Click SlimBox Flex Indoor Splitter Module and expand from one to eight ports. We can reconnect our initial subscriber and connect seven more subscribers on that floor, in order to get a higher take rate as we get new subscribers in the building.
Sandy Oregon located about 30 miles from downtown Portland is blessed with beautiful mountain scenery but unfortunately its great location also leads to challenges when it comes to being connected to the outside world. In 2002 city officials had the vision to start their own internet service provider and offer affordable internet service to its residents. The result was SandyNet. From the beginning it was a huge success. People wanted it. They were hungry for it.
We had been in municipal ISP for quite some time starting off with DSL and wireless and outgrown that technology and so really the only next step for technology was to go to fiber. So, in 2014 SandyNet partnered with OFS to bring high-speed fiber to Sandy’s businesses and residents. They set some specific goals at the time that included deploying a future-proof fiber optic network. Providing all neighborhoods with the same service enabling residents the ability to access videos, e-learning, gaming, and government services, increasing Sandy’s competitiveness to attract new business and offering the city-owned network as a utility. In the years since upgrading to a fiber optic network, how has Sandy done with meeting their goals?
Sandy’s seeing some unprecedented growth right now both on the residential side and a lot of commercial opportunities. Going forward, SandyNet will continue to help lure people here and increase our tax base, increase our residence and increase the virtual learning environment that a lot of our students are partaking in. Right now, over the course of the last six seven years, during that time period I’ve talked to a number of people in Sandy who have moved here to the community and while it wasn’t the sole decision that they made the fact that gigabit fiber was available at their residence in a wired solution was the deciding factor for several people to buy a house in this community.
Our community has just thrived with having that big fat fiber pipe. That’s one of the things for us where we were always struggling with the amount of capacity that our previous internet service providers were giving to us. Now we don’t have that problem anymore. We have over capacity in a sense. We have enough to where people can stream and listen to music while they’re working and we can still get all our work done. We can download the data that we need to get it done in minutes, seconds. Instead of an hour or two, we can upload stuff into our servers, into our clients servers, quickly just all of that greatness that comes with having a really fast internet connection.
It’s a great asset to have our SandyNet charges on the same utility bill that our water and sewer charges are on. It’s an easy one payment a month to have this service that you know is much more affordable than a lot of the other providers that are out both in our area and nationally.
But back in 2014 when SandyNet was deploying fiber to try and make its network future proof no one could have foreseen what fiber would mean to not just the town but the entire world in 2020. There was virtually no one whose life was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a high speed fiber optic network became the difference between those who were able to keep pace with the world and those who were left wanting something better. It was amazing that we got our fiber put in place when we did. It was built out to so many homes and had gone in front of hundreds of the homes in Sandy. Those that didn’t initially take it, could get it during that time. There was no rationing. We were in school one day and then everyone was at home the next day. Not just students, but also people working from home.
When you have a strand of fiber going to your house providing gigabit capacity it makes working from home very easy and I think a lot of people have been very happy with the service that they’ve gotten here in Sandy. From council meetings being held virtually, to team meetings, and other department meetings at the administrative level, we were able to continue our operations seamlessly with the help of SandyNet During the pandemic we did see an increase in speed upwards of 25 across our overall traffic patterns. Mostly traffic did increase during the workday. Our network is designed to be able to carry that load.
Once the city of Sandy decided to go all in with fiber who better to turn to than OFS. The industry leading experts at OFS were able to design, engineer, and deploy a network that was easily able to meet all of Sandy’s goals for a robust future-proof network.
OFS is able to combine several products that are designed to work with the gigabit, and 10 gigabit, 25 gigabit fiber. OFS can integrate solutions together to provide a complete turnkey solution for fiber to the home to our customers. We have to thank OFS a lot for SandyNet. We can’t go out and buy a book on how to set up fiber to the home network. Working with people that have been in the industry for 30 some years and having a great team that has worked on fiber the home projects in the past has been great. OFS has done all the heavy lifting. They’ve figured out all the optical budget information and then just provided this seamless solution and high-quality product.
Sandy’s been a fantastic success. We really appreciate all the opportunities from the city of Sandy for OFS. A complete OFS product solution along with the design the engineering, the build has provided the city of Sandy residents with great economic enhancement and quality of life improvement for decades to come. It would be a lot harder to differentiate Sandy from any other city of 12,000 people in Oregon. We still have many things that make us unique, but SandyNet really is the biggest one and I think it will have the most impact on our community over time.
There’s been lots of excitement and even some “hype” around the idea of 5G. But what is it really? Does it mean just faster internet? Will it really be that much better than 4G? Many people are asking these questions as the FCC begins to auction the first licenses for the airwaves that will carry 5G service.
What Is 5G, Really?
5G will be up to 100 times faster than today’s cellular connections – and even faster than many home fiber optic broadband services. But it’s not just about speed. Networks will have greater capacity and respond faster than earlier wireless services. More people and devices will work at the same time on the same network without slowing it to a crawl. And it will do all of this with lower latency. Latency is the time delay between a device contacting the network and receiving a response.
This improved latency will help to bring about some of the most amazing tech trends on the horizon. And while 5G may not change your life right away, it will certainly bring some totally new technologies to life. For now, here are a few of the most exciting apps and technologies that 5G will enable.
Promising 5G Applications
Self-driving vehicles – Self-driving cars will be a common sight with the next generation of wireless service. And 5G will make vehicle-to-vehicle communication happen – where cars can almost instantly share information between them on their location, speed, acceleration, direction and steering. Many experts believe that this feature will become the greatest lifesaving advance in the auto industry in more than a decade. Using this, cars will know before their drivers when another car moves into your blind spot or when a dump truck that’s six vehicles ahead suddenly stops.
Telesurgery – Remote surgery isn’t new. However, 5G could make a huge difference in providing medical care to millions in distant locations, along with training doctors remotely in surgery and other specialties.
Virtual Reality – For truly realistic virtual reality (VR), a wireless network must carry tons of data. And while it must be fast, the network must also handle this data deluge to create a life-like VR experience. It will take 5G to make this happen.
Drones: 5G technology will let drones talk to one another, helping prevent overhead accidents while in flight.
5G wireless networks can make many of the technologies, applications and experiences that we’ve been waiting for a reality.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $95 million to improve or expand access to broadband internet in the rural U.S. The 12 projects involved will include converting exchanges from copper to optical fiber and also building a fiber-to-the-home network to meet future demand.
These projects will expand access to educational, social and business opportunities for rural subscribers in 11 states by connecting businesses to customers, farmers to markets and students to a world of knowledge.
Location Should Not Determine Access
According to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, “A person’s location should not determine whether he or she has access to modern communications infrastructure. That is why the USDA is partnering with businesses and communities by investing in state-of-the-art broadband e-connectivity to remote and rural areas.”
The USDA is making the investments through the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and the Community Connect Grant Program.
Examples of the Investments
Chibardun Telephone Cooperative, Inc. in Cameron, Wisconsin, will receive a $21.4 million loan to improve outside plant facilities in four of its six exchanges. It will construct 675 miles of fiber-to-the-premises and install associated electronics. It plans to build a fiber-to-the-home network capable of sustaining customer demands in broadband connectivity for the foreseeable future.
Osage Innovative Solutions, LLC in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will receive a $2.7 million grant to construct a hybrid fiber-to-the-premises and fixed wireless system in an unserved and economically depressed portion of the Osage Nation in Osage County. The company will offer speeds up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload. This project will give customers access to high-quality telecommunications to improve economic, education and health care opportunities. Osage will provide a community center where residents can access the internet free of charge.
The Northeast Missouri Rural Telephone Company, in Green City, Missouri, is receiving a $13.7 million loan to convert six exchanges from copper plant to optical fiber to the premises. It will construct nearly 500 route miles of optical fiber.
These investments will help to improve the quality of life in rural Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Shades of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak! A recent study in Optica describes a new way to achieve cloaking invisibility. In this method, researchers manipulated the frequency (color) of light waves passing through an object. This approach overcomes critical shortcomings in existing cloaking technologies. The research team says that this technique could help to secure data sent over optical fiber. It could also improve current technologies for sensing, telecommunications and information processing.
Most current cloaking devices can only conceal an object when it is illuminated with just one color of light. However, sunlight and most other light sources are broadband (i.e., they contain many colors). Also, typical cloaking solutions work by changing the dispersion path of the light around the object to be concealed.
The new solution avoids these problems by allowing light waves to pass through the object, rather than around it, while still avoiding any interaction between the light waves and the object.
To achieve this, the researchers rearranged different colors of broadband light so that the light waves passed through the object without actually “seeing” it. For example, if the object reflected green light, they would then change light in the green portion of the spectrum to another color. In this way, there would be no green light for the object to reflect. Then, once the light wave cleared the object, the cloaking device reversed the shift, returning the wave to its original state.
This spectral cloaking device could be useful in working with current telecommunication networks. These systems use broadband waves as data signals to transmit information over optical fiber. Spectral cloaking could selectively determine which operations are applied to a light wave and which are “made invisible” over certain periods of time. Service providers could use this capability to prevent eavesdroppers from gathering information by probing a fiber optic network with broadband light.
Also, providers could transmit more data over a given line by selectively removing and then reinstating colors that are used as telecommunication data signals. This capability could help to reduce “logjams” as data demands continue to explode.