5 key problems with fiber networks

Sep 09, 2015

Fiber Optic Cabling Installation.jpgIn many circumstances, fiber optic cabling is an ideal choice. It is one of the best options available for supporting high-bandwidth transmissions, especially over long distances. And, in comparison to other types of wires like copper, it is less prone to interference, and it’s much thinner while still being strong and resilient.

However, while fiber optic cabling is well-suited for many different kinds of tasks and networks, it is not the best option in a number of key circumstances, including for many video surveillance solutions. In particular, there are five main problems with fiber:

1) Can be expensive to implement

The costs related to both procuring and installing fiber optic cabling can often be quite high. Since 2001, the costs per-mile of new and expanded fiber optic cable installations in the U.S. has ranged from $6,800 to $79,000, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These prices may be on the low end, too, as this data may not be taking into account other factors, such as the costs related to lighting the fiber and supporting the network over time. The Vallejo Times-Herald reported that up to three-fourths of the costs related to new fiber optic deployments often come from installation, not procurement.

2) Time consuming to deploy

Since fiber optic cabling is based on just that, cabling, it can sometimes take a considerable amount of time to get up and running. Often a trench needs to be dug over a long distance, and then afterwards the cabling is finally deployed. After deployment it must be lit too, further extending the timeline. Granted not all fiber is deployed underground, but regardless of where the physical cabling rests, it’s still a time-consuming process to deploy it. It can sometimes take years for a fiber optic project to be complete.

3) Disruptive installation process

More often than not, fiber optic cabling is installed underground. This of course means that roads and anything else in the route of the fiber will likely need to dislodged or otherwise disrupted to make room for the new cabling. This is not a problem often, but in certain situations the project can be downright impossible to complete.

For instance, removing everything that might be in fiber’s way in a densely populated city is other rather difficult. Additionally, there can be many legal and historical issues with digging up roads and going under buildings in protected areas like national parks or world heritage sites. Such a problem arose during a recent project in Viejo San Juan, the old colonial center of Puerto Rico’s capital city.

“Old San Juan is designated as a National Historic Landmark District - digging up the streets in this area of town to lay fiber simply isn’t an option,” said Andrés Nazario, sales director at telecommunications products distributor GSS. “Carriers looking to serve business customers in the area who need high bandwidth, high availability connections have limited options.”

4) Not always ideal for mobile deployments

Fiber optic cabling is physical, static infrastructure. This is fine under many different scenarios, but it is limiting when mobility is needed. For example, it is not well-suited for supporting a video surveillance system on subway trains, where cameras and other endpoints are constantly moving. Fiber is capable of providing backhaul in these situations, but not for connecting closer to non-static endpoints. Under these situations, a wireless network is typically much better suited to the task.

5) Prone to physical disruption

Whether by accident or malicious intent, fiber optic cables can be cut or otherwise broken. An issue with even a foot of cabling can cause major issues across the entire network. For example, a cut fiber optic cable line in Lake County, California, earlier this year caused widespread outages in the area. In addition, in just this year, 12 different cables located around the San Francisco Bay Area have been cut, leading to disruptions and outages in the region.

“Although the motives for the attacks are not clear, they do show how easy it is to disrupt services and how hard it is for telecom companies to quickly repair the cuts,” FierceTelecom contributor Sue Marek wrote about the Bay Area incidents in August.

In many circumstances, fiber optic cabling is the ideal choice for connectivity infrastructure. However, it is not without its drawbacks. For a number of situations, a wireless networking option like the HotPort 7000 is much better suited for the task. Contact Firetide today to learn more about available fiber alternatives.