A recent business white paper from the 3M Communication Markets Division, authored by 3M applications engineer Stephen King, investigates "challenges and solutions for Fiber-to-the-Antenna networks." The paper contends that, with the evolution to advanced 3G and 4G wireless technologies, service providers are taking fiber to the top of the tower, and fiber-fed architectures are quickly becoming the new norm for tower builds and retrofits. New fiber-to-the-antenna (FTTA) architectures leverage tower-mounted radios to deliver a number of benefits over traditional coaxial-based systems.
However, when it comes to installing fiber networks with an operation geared toward hard-line coax, 3M notes that operators face a new set of challenges, particularly in terms of connectivity. They must weigh the pros and cons of factory-terminated versus field-terminated fiber cable; they have to consider the skill sets of their field technicians; and they should address the increased need for weatherproofing required by many new antenna designs in order to provide advanced services. The paper examines how new hardware platforms from connectivity suppliers are helping operators to meet these challenges.