Fiber Deep Networks and The Lessons Learned From The Field (2017)

By Todd Loeffelholz, Alpha Technologies Inc.

Fiber Deep architectures are becoming a natural next step in the evolution of the HFC network. As the need for bandwidth continues to grow, fiber will continue to be pushed deeper into the network. The constant expansion of fiber has already been witnessed in both telephony and cellular networks. The movement from DSL to ADSL and ultimately to VDSL2+ had the same goal - drive fiber closer to the customer and improve bandwidth at the customer premise. The same can be also said for the evolution of wireless networks. As the networks have upgraded from 1G to 4G, it has been about getting fiber closer to the customer and improving the amount of data available to watch the latest sports game or facetime with a friend. The world is fixated on data, and fiber is a medium which can help meet the demands of today and into the foreseeable future. The key is balancing the cost of deploying fiber against the demand for bandwidth.

As we look at how to balance the cost of deployment, a key factor to be considered is the amount of bandwidth available. The differentiating factor of the HFC network over competitive technologies is the wonderful coaxial cable. The natural form of the coaxial cable provides strong shielding of interfering signals from the center conductor which transmits both video and data. This shielding is a key differentiator which allows the coax to transmit significantly more data over the same distance versus a traditional twisted pair network. As can be seen in the current DOCSIS 3.1 technology, the HFC architecture using a coaxial last mile has the ability to provide up to 10 Gbps using today’s spectrum defined for DOCSIS 3.1. Today, due to spectrum allocation of video and data, capacity available is 1-2Gbps. In comparison, the latest deployable twisted pair technology G.FAST is capable of delivering only 800 Mbit/s over 300 feet. As can be seen, the coax cable has a significant amount of bandwidth available which makes it an excellent medium for the last mile.

With this in mind, the next focus is on minimizing deployment costs of new technologies. To do this effectively, a fiber deep architecture effectively utilizes the current last mile while providing higher bandwidths and a significant amount of additional network benefits.

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