Fibre innovation in Africa
Economies all over the world are taking an interest in the building of country-wide optical fibre networks to energise their broadband sectors and diversify them from a reliance on wireless connectivity.
The Indian government, for example, is investing vast sums in the creation of a National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN). Bangladesh too is extending fibre beyond cities to villages, and similar efforts are underway in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia.
African operator Liquid Telecom is taking the idea one step further with the creation of Africa’s largest single fibre network, currently spanning over 24,000km across borders and reaching out to economies where no fixed network has existed before. Technical innovation is at the heart of Liquid’s effort, leveraging as it does recent moves by the optical fibre vendor community to decrease the size of coated optical fibres from 250 microns to 200.
“This reduction in cables size means that we can deploy 50% more optical fibres in our standard underground ducted configurations, which of course increases capacity,” says Keith Rowley, group chief of fibre operations at Liquid Telecom. “Our fibre suppliers are listening more to our bespoke requirements and working with us in order to meet ongoing challenges. For example, FTTH customer installations require a robust and forgiving optical fibre cable in order to withstand some of the conditions and treatment it can be subjected to such as tight bends along skirting boards.”
Liquid has noted a reduction in operational costs by deploying new types of optical fibre in its FTTH. Liquid points out that comparable innovations in the backbone sections of the network promise savings: “On the horizon is Multicore Optical Fibre,” he says.“this would allow the subdivision of single optical fibre cores into multiple optical fibre cores which provide between four and eight times more capacity than one single optical fibre, with potentially minimal increase in fibre optic cable size. This leads to lower investment in laying ducted infrastructure due to the higher capacity of optical fibres utilising the same space.”