Fi­bre in­no­va­tion in Africa

Capacity - - Special Report: Optical Fibre -

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.”

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