Telcos can leverage infrastructure by rethinking inside the box

Nov. 1, 2011
A high-density remote broadband cabinet enables service providers to leverage fiber and copper networks to deliver services to more customers.

A high-density remote broadband cabinet enables service providers to leverage fiber and copper networks to deliver services to more customers.

By Jean-Francois Klein, 3M

High customer demand for broadband presents an exciting opportunity for many service providers. But meeting the need can be problematic, especially given today’s economic realities. New technology that offers rapid, low-cost broadband expansions and speed increases may finally give telcos a competitive advantage.

The challenge

Many telcos have recognized that the cost of delivering broadband via fiber-to-the-home is staggering. It has been widely reported by industry studies and articles that running fiber through a typical American neighborhood can run between $500 and $700 per home and sometimes higher. The hefty investment in an all-fiber deployment has also become largely speculative, thanks to competitive pressures. Bringing fiber past a home does not necessarily mean that particular homeowner will become a subscriber. Consumers have many options from which to choose. Worse, if customers are kept waiting too long, they are likely to go with another communications provider—a cable operator or satellite company—rather than delay access to services they believe are now essential.

Many telcos have found this environment too risky for the massive investment required to build the fiber infrastructure that not long ago had been hailed as one of the best ways to deliver the increased bandwidth needed for enhanced services. Build out times and costs of new fiber deployment, along with the limitations of long copper runs, have left many telcos on the sidelines, watching helplessly as competitors quickly and affordably deploy alternate technologies—and take potential customers off the market.

The solution shown here and described in this article integrates IP DSLAMs, fiber management and high-density copper crossconnect with integrated protection into a single, low-profile “all-in-one” remote terminal cabinet that can be pole-, wall- or pad-mounted. The particular system shown here has 3M’s STG2000 series components inside a cabinet in the Purcell FLX series.

A new solution disrupts this paradigm. The innovation is an all-in-one, small-footprint, high-density remote broadband cabinet strategically placed in the midspan of the legacy copper network. There, fiber from the central office meets up with an Internet Protocol (IP) Digital Subscriber Line access multiplexer (DSLAM) and copper crossconnects to deliver high-speed DSL to the home once beyond natural reach from the central office. This approach enables faster speed-to-market, increased revenue stream establishment and quicker recapture of deployment costs for the service provider.

The high-density midspan broadband cabinet is a remote terminal cabinet that allows strategic midspan placement deep into the network, beyond legacy digital loop carrier (DLC) cabinets and crossconnect cabinets in the feeder network, at the loop length required to optimize broadband delivery to remote customers. The approach calls for simple, straight splicing to the legacy outside-plant cables and double jumpering to activate service to subscribers.

Broader broadband delivery

While the industry has been nearly singularly focused on fiber, significant advances in copper technology and related hardware have been and continue to be made that have improved the speed and reliability of copper-based “last mile” broadband.

Spliced into the legacy network serving multiple crossconnect cabinets, the solution delivers broadband beyond the reach of the central office. It can eliminate the need to retrofit DLCs, and provides a central location for xDSL service delivery and operations.

Over the past decade numerous researchers at universities and technology companies have recognized that leveraging the installed copper plant can support the goal of ubiquitous broadband access to almost everyone across America. Their work has led to technological advances that have enabled copper to deliver at previously unimaginable speeds and bandwidths.

The all-in-one cabinet-enabled solution is expected to deliver important advantages, many of which are related to gaining a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.

Easier provisioning of broadband deployment. The simple enclosure is optimized for loop shortening or overlay deployment, and also works with existing DLCs and circuit crossconnects (CCCs). It provides a consistent crossconnect interface (F2, F3, DSL pairs) and visual indication of working broadband customers for technicians, which increases productivity and efficiency. The enclosure smoothes DSL services activation with simple jumpering, and offers “look-both-ways” testing capability without removing wires, thereby reducing the time it takes for technicians to isolate network problems from a central location.

Rapid deployment. The cabinet houses fiber transport, DSLAM and preterminated, high-density crossconnect field with integrated protection to maintain high density. The solution can be deployed using multiple mounting options that include pole, wall and pad.

Lower cost. This flexible solution provides a midspan, on-demand DSL injection point into the legacy POTS feeder or distribution outside plant and extends the value of the existing copper network. Moreover, the solution offers significant installation labor cost savings over other possible options. In addition, it can help reduce capital and operating expenses and generate revenue more quickly than previous technologies allowed.

Ease of migration to future technology deployment. The solution is easily upgradable, and requires only one technician to place a second IP DSLAM or replace an existing ADSL+ IP plus DSLAM.

No terminal verification required prior to installation. The solution enables easy splicing into the feeder and distribution plant. The elimination of “buzz-out” tone for individual pair identification by craft and prior to cutover can generate thousands of dollars in savings per crossbox.

Neat appearance. An “all-in-one” cabinet presents a clean and tidy appearance because all components are contained within a single unit. Communities, customers and others generally do not like unsightly cabinet farms and favor one cabinet over several—and one cabinet versus a cabinet with unsightly add-ons.

This fiber-copper hybrid solution can be deployed quickly and affordably. Most importantly, this innovative solution provides an ideal, affordable way for telcos to bring broadband services to customers who might otherwise go without, or be lost to competitors.

Jean-Francois Klein is business development manager with 3M Communications Markets Division.

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