By Koby Reshef, PacketLight CEO
At Cable-tec this year, cable telecom engineers and executives gathered to discuss the latest innovations happening in the space. One of the most pressing issues was how to better address enormous bandwidth demands of today’s users. From Netflix to YouTube, sending increasingly large numbers of videos over fiber lines across the United States is stressing the networks and is a clear example of demand exceeding supply. Each fiber line can only deliver so much data at optimal speeds, and while some of the major cable companies have been able to keep up, many of the smaller Multiple System Operators (MSO) struggle simply due to a lack of fiber to handle the traffic. As Google showed this week with its plan to discontinue Google Fiber initiatives, installing more fiber is not a cost effective solution. Hence, to combat this issue broadcasters and broadband providers must find a way to get more data across existing infrastructure.
Laying more fiber across the U.S. is not only expensive, but is conditional on things that have nothing to do with improving communication. For example, there are rules where a company can lay fiber in certain areas only when other road construction is needed. We need a quicker solution to solve the bandwidth problem as it has grown exponentially. Not long ago it was sufficient to have 5-10Mbps to the home and now we need 100Mbps. Currently, many cable providers are looking to solve fiber-to-the-home as a solution but this is a very costly fix. Fiber lines transmit more data at higher speeds in the neighborhood, but the majority of homes still carry antiquated copper wire directly to the home. In other words, Fiber provides fast enough speeds to handle the need for bandwidth, but most users do not get this level of connection.
As an alternative to laying more fiber, cable companies are also looking to implement a more efficient way to send all kinds of data to the many homes it serves through a method called direct transmission. Instead of transmitting signal to each premises individually and communicating back to the service provider, it will send one signal containing all the data and drop it off to each home that is connected to the backbone fiber cable. This will improve speeds create a better use of existing infrastructure.
Another area that is concerning to cable providers is 5G, which could give mobile carriers the ability bypass the issue with fiber-to-the-premises by transmitting the full data at optimal speeds across wireless. As carriers begin to refine triple play packages - moving from internet, TV and landline to Internet, TV and mobile phone - they are at an advantage because it will be easier to transmit the large amounts of data required. Many believe that fixed wireless can be a viable alternative to the costly and still incredibly difficult fiber-to-the-home initiatives.
Regardless of which option is our answer in the future, there are still improvements that can maximize existing infrastructure and expand capacity, particularly to their DWDM backbone and metro networks. We must squeeze the juice out of our existing fiber optics network if we hope to be able to handle the amount of UHD video, live streaming and other forms of large content that are in demand. Ensuring that infrastructure has 100/200G wavelength capacities is one of the most immediate ways to enable cost effective growth in the short term. We are looking toward 400G speeds soon, but for now companies must focus on minimizing their footprint and maximizing efficiency on existing networks.
Published in TechZone 360
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