Fibre optic cabling may be more cost effective than you think

Tech products seem to move from pilot to market to end-of- life faster than ever before. The latest mobile phone has already been replaced with the new model even before it has been taken out of the box.

Telecom infrastructures go from one generation to the next in a matter of months. CPU speeds have been doubling every 18 months keeping up with Moore’s Law and are expected to do so for at least the next four or five years.

There are however some rock solid technologies that exhibit a permanency that is hard to find in today’s breakneck speeds of scientific and technological development.

The life cycles of such technologies may even span decades. Compared to most technological advances, these are astronomical timescales indeed!

Fibre optic cable and infrastructure is one of these rare technologies that are characterised by an extensively long lifecycle. It’s a good thing too because the installation and maintenance of a fibre optic infrastructure can be a huge investment.

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Even so, if given enough time, the ROI on a fibre optic network can be substantially higher due to its considerably long lifespan.

What gives fibre optic cable such a resiliency against time? Well, first of all, good quality optical fibre, including the strands themselves as well as the protective sheath, is very durable and, if installed correctly and protected from the environment, can last decades.

Once it’s in, it’s in for the long haul. A great example of this is the Atlantis-2 transatlantic telecommunications optical cable connecting countries in Europe, Africa and South America.

It was ready for operation in February of 2000 and is still in use today.

Secondly, the main advances in fibre optic communications are not so much in the cables themselves, but more in the equipment that is placed on either end.

So in most cases, to accommodate the drastically increasing data rates of today and tomorrow, you don’t need to uproot your cabling, but you just need to replace the equipment on either end of it.

Essentially, fibre optic cabling future-proofs your infrastructure. A good example of this is how Ethernet has been increasing in speeds from 100Mbps to 1Gbps to 40Gbps to 100Gbps all over the same type of single mode fibre optic cable.

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Although the replacement of such equipment can be expensive, it is dirt cheap compared to the total cost of the cabling infrastructure.

It is important to remember that the traditional copper infrastructure for Cable TV and telecom networks was installed progressively as demand slowly increased over the past 100 years.

In contrast, to provide for the telecom needs of today with a fibre optic infrastructure requires a huge investment indeed.

Nevertheless, the use of fibre optic cabling in networks within buildings, in metropolitan area networks as well as in infrastructures such as FTTX has been gaining ground worldwide as companies in the industry are quickly realising that given enough time, the ROI is definitely worth it.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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