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INNOVATIONS IN FIBRE ROLL-OUT PREPARE THE GROUND FOR 5G

Martin Ferreira

Innovative services that are being delivered via high fibre bandwidth are being matched by less visible, but equally vital, innovations in how that fibre is deployed.

Movie and music streaming, video phone calls and the ability for medical experts to guide procedures in remote clinics using video conferencing are just some of the ways people are benefitting from continual improvements in telecoms technology.

Yet as many countries slowly gear up for 5G installations, much of Africa has still to experience any high-speed connectivity at all. Massive cabling projects are being rolled out by several companies however, particularly in South Africa, and fibre to the home is no longer the sole preserve of the elite.

Rural areas are also best served by fibre installations, partly to avoid the theft of above-ground technologies and partly because the need for broadband will only increase as more rural citizens get connected, drawing on the built-in redundancy that fibre offers.

Jasco Carrier Solutions is playing a role in this fibre revolution by supplying innovative equipment and techniques to deploy cable more quickly and cheaply. One clever creation is a pre-cast manhole, removing the need for workers to build a bricks and mortar support structure around underground access points to the cables. The lightweight manhole cases come in flatpacks and are easily assembled, then simply be dropped into a hole. They come with 16 or 20 cable entry points at various angles around the sides for easy retro-fitting into existing installations.

Jasco is also helping companies to slash the high splicing costs every time two wires are linked. Splice machines are usually costly pieces of equipment that require specialised skills to operate. Jasco is now supplying the Fibrlok II Universal Splice, where each splice costs only around R3, making it hugely cost effective. The Fibrlok is purely mechanical and doesn’t need any electrical power or specialised skills, making it easy to use on site, and index matching gel at the splice point helps to maintain transmission quality.

Other products that Jasco supplies include innovative options for last-mile connectivity.

Hotels, housing complexes and sophisticated offices don’t want ugly wires running throughout their buildings, so the aesthetic answer is a clear fibre that lets operators deploy the network without marring the appearance of the rooms. One popular solution is Clear Track Hallway Fiber Pathway, used for routing fibres from the telco closet to the point of use. A clear adhesive backing material sticks the line onto the wall, and its contoured surface cleverly diffuses the light to make it virtually invisible.

Clearpath is proving very popular with end users who want the benefits of fibre without the eyesore that can come with it.

Services based on 5G will be heavily reliant on fibre backbones, as the sheer volume of data they require will strain microwave last-mile capacity. Fibre also provides the instantaneous data delivery necessary to control self-driving cars and other devices on the Internet of Things, without the inherent latency of microwave transmissions.

The arrival of 5G will trigger a slew of changes up and down the eco-system, including consumer handsets specially developed to work with the new technology. Some 4G network infrastructure will be able to interoperate with 5G, however, so a rip and replace policy won’t be necessary. International analysts predict that 5G will only take off commercially around 2021, although many vendors are currently testing its capabilities, including Vodacom.

In South Africa there is still no clarity from Icasa about licencing the necessary spectrum, which is likely to cause delays in deployment. But once those frequencies are made available, the new advances in fibre deployment technologies will mean the network operators are ready to roll.

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