Digital fiber technologies and fiber deep strategies provide an infrastructure foundation for cable operators and their subscribers. An infrastructure foundation that enables operators to deliver the best possible quality of services for Internet and video, especially as subscribers begin to demand support for 4K, 8K and 3D video and virtual reality applications.
Here are four approaches cable operators can use to ensure service availability and the best possible user experiences now and in the years ahead.
1—Increasing capacity with coherent optical technologies
Cable MSOs are looking for ways to increase capacity of the network between the headend and fiber nodes while avoiding the need to lay additional fiber strands or disrupting cities and streetscapes with new infrastructure. Coherent optics, traditionally used on long-haul fiber systems, are a powerful solution to this challenge. Operators can deploy coherent optics on their existing fiber to dramatically increase capacity compared to the analog optics used in hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks.Coherent optical technologies can also incorporate packet networking techniques—such as Ethernet and IP—to provide an efficient and highly scalable foundation for Internet and data services. Cable firms that use coherent optics can achieve transport speeds of 100G to 400G and beyond on a single fiber pair.
2—Transforming the headend into a data center
Digital fiber technologies can greatly simplify the headend or hub architecture and support new service capabilities. With digital optics, MSOs can remove the RF-centric components used with analog equipment, reducing the number of components required in the facility. Digital optics make it possible to use Ethernet or IP-based packet networking for all transmissions between the core and the node, yielding operational efficiencies and reducing transport costs. The approach enables operators to better support “head ends re-architected as data center” (HERD) architectures to provide more responsive Internet services, better QoS, and cache content closer to users to minimize latency and help optimize OTT video strategies. The approach can be used in conjunction with the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) that operators use to integrate and link DOCSIS and video services to end user equipment.
3—Pushing fiber deeper into communities
Digital optics technologies also provide the foundation for fiber deep
architectures that cable operators will be using in coming years to push fiber closer to end users. With fiber deep strategies, MSOs can place more fiber nodes on the HFC network and deploy the nodes strategically in towns and neighborhoods. The approach can reduce the number of homes served by each node from 500 to 64, which increases throughput and capacity delivered to the service group and handles the load more efficiently. Each end user served by a particular node receives greater bandwidth and better quality of service.
Fiber deep strategies will open up new business opportunities for MSOs because each node can support not only the MSO’s Internet and OTT services but also the traffic the MSO carries for Wi-Fi, third-party content providers, and mobile backhaul. The backhaul application will take on increased importance in coming years as mobile operators deploy 5G networks and small cells to bolster cellular coverage and capacity.
4—Eliminating the need for antiquated coaxial amplifiers
Another benefit of fiber deep is that it enables operators to improve service reliability while reducing costs. The strategy can eliminate the need for legacy RF amplifiers on the coaxial lines, avoiding the operational costs and drawbacks of the amplifiers, which are susceptible to interference from grid voltages and vulnerable to power quality problems and utility outages. The reduced number of active devices can significantly reduce network power consumption to help operators lower costs while supporting corporate green initiatives.
Practical Tips for Upgrading your Infrastructure
Cable MSOs can deploy coherent optical and packet networking capabilities on fiber they already have installed, without requiring expensive new equipment. As operators transform the cable head end into data centers and host content closer to the edge of their networks, they can use data center interconnect (DCI) technologies to aggregate and switch packet traffic within the data center and connect the data center to the company’s network. Operations teams can use software tools to manage, control and plan the network to keep everything running smoothly.
Following are some practical guidelines that will help you plan your network upgrades:
- Place your first deployments where they will bring the highest value to your business.
- Determine where your customers have the most service degradation from old plants and aging technologies and assign these facilities for early upgrades.
- Look for housing construction or business developments in your market that will require connectivity. Consider deploying fiber nodes to serve these developments.
- Plan your fiber routes with utmost care. You can only cut fiber once, so it’s essential to get it right the first time to avoid costly mistakes.
- Find ways to monetize the fiber and drive new revenues.
- Factor in opportunities to use your new infrastructure to supply backhaul to mobile operator partners.
- Provision capacity and capabilities to meet the specific needs of each deployment.
- Choose your options carefully and plan your expenditures wisely.
Last but not least, consider the staffing you’ll need to install and operate your new system. Incorporate training into your deployment, management, and maintenance plans so all teams can work effectively and efficiently to keep your services running at optimum performance levels.