The Next Technology for Fiber to the Home
BEAD Funding for FTTH: What We Know So Far
By now, we all know that the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, enacted under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, authorizes more than $42B to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Since funding allotments were announced on June 26, 2023, states and territories have been actively creating and submitting their required Initial Proposals and 5 Year Action Plans. We know projected timelines for the major milestones required by the states and territories and know approximately when funding will be issued. Up to 20% of allocated funds can be requested upon approval of Initial Proposals for planning purposes and the remaining 80% of funds is tied to Final Proposal approvals. Final Proposals are not due until 365 days after Initial Proposal approval which at least on the “timeline” puts it at earliest in late 2024. As my mother used to say, “Good things come to those that wait.” (Unless you are a Green Bay Packers fan in which case we are not used to waiting for good things, they just [used to] happen. But I digress…) What about the Affordable Connectivity Program?But what about the unknowns? There is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). BEAD requires service providers receiving funding to participate in the low-income ACP. But the ACP program funding is expected to run out in 2024. The ACP pays up to $30 a month toward the cost of internet service of low-income households. This helps increase the estimated take rate and reduces operating costs in many of the high-cost-to-serve areas. The Biden Administration recently requested $6B to continue ACP as part of a $56B supplemental domestic budget request. But politics aside, will the appropriation get budgeted? While many Republican leaders represent districts with high numbers of ACP enrollees, do not assume that is a guarantee for passage. How Does BEAD’s Letter of Credit Affect Funding?Also in discussion is the Letter of Credit (LOC) requirement within BEAD. BEAD applicants were required to provide the National Telecommunications and Information Administration “NTIA” with a LOC from a bank as evidence that they have at least 25% of the grant dollar amount in a cash bank account. That capital would need to be set aside for the entire duration of a BEAD-funded project. Recently, several regional Internet Service Providers (ISP) wrote the Secretary of Commerce stating the LOC requirement was burdensome and will reduce private investments. On November 1st, 2023, the NTIA issued a conditional programmatic waiver of the LOC requirement for BEAD participants. NTIA said other acceptable alternatives may include a letter from a qualified credit union, or a performance bond for 100% of the award. It also allows states and territories to reduce the percentage requirement of the performance bond or LOC over time as service providers meet certain project milestones. It also allows states and territories to request waivers for additional circumstances not covered by the waiver where prospective subgrantees are able to meet the requirements by other means. Outside the waiver, we are seeing an active influx of private capital being invested in the industry through acquisition or investment as additional levels of support. How the letter of credit requirement and waiver allowances are addressed will be an important aspect in the selection of subgrantees for the implementation of BEAD deployments. Why Does Extremely High Cost Per Location Threshold Matter?A third area of discussion is the determination of what is called Extreme High Cost per location Threshold (EHCT). BEAD established performance standards that the NTIA has determined are best served with “end-to-end” fiber optics. It does not prohibit other forms of technology but established the EHCT which is the point at which a preference for fiber deployment is no longer cost-effective, and thus, other technologies that are typically less expensive to deploy can be considered. But it is not as simple as setting the threshold too high or too low that impacts the decision, it is also the size of the geographic area being served. A large rural county can prove to have an EHCT but if it is divided into sub-sectors, it could show a percentage of it could fall below that EHCT and then only address the alternative technologies in the EHCT areas. (It is our understanding that the states, territories, and the NTIA do not recommend an EHCT dollar amount but instead use a formula to calculate the EHCT by location.) And while BEAD clearly prefers fiber, there are locations that cannot be cost-effectively served without considering alternative technologies. The state of Louisiana makes note of this and has stated it will accept applications for providers using alternative technologies (FWA, Satellite) and will not define high-cost areas until the end of the bid process. So, the states will have a lot of say in this area. The Impact of a Trained WorkforceLastly, an area not necessarily tied to BEAD exclusively is the availability (or unavailability) of a trained and experienced workforce. Obviously, BEAD and other funding programs have spurred broadband deployments and put a strain on employers to have a workforce in quantity and experience of their needs. There are many entities providing training in fiber and outside plant technologies. There are community technical colleges that do so as well. But don’t forget to consider many of the well-qualified vendors in the industry and review their product solutions for features and benefits that make installations fast, easy and accurate with both experienced and inexperienced tradespeople. Some companies, like UCL Swift, have developed patented technologies to provide labor and material savings that enable the government-provided funding to go further. The time to ask vendors to come in for a demo or training is now. Develop your knowledge of the competitive solutions available to you and use them to your advantage to make the most of your BEAD (and other Broadband) deployments.
Feb 09, 2024
Improving Fiber Deployments
While the desire to bring fiber broadband to more communities has never been higher, the challenge will be in having a skilled workforce that can build and support the new networks being built to serve consumers and businesses.As North American broadband providers look to expand fiber networks to reach the unserved and underserved, the fiber broadband provider industry desperately needs skilled fiber technicians who can build these networks.Click to learn more now!Courtesy of Broadband Technology Report.
Jan 21, 2024
How Do Optical Taps for FTTH Work?: Part 2
In How Do Optical Taps for FTTH Work? Part I, we introduced why network design professionals may choose to deploy optical taps in rural applications where customers can be spaced far apart. These taps pull a targeted amount of signal from a fiber optic strand and then allow a specific amount of signal to drop off to the subscriber and the remainder of the signal to transmit along the fiber optic strand for other users.In part II, we will review how optical taps distribute that signal, differ from Passive Optical Splitters (PON), and why they are a popular choice for rural network designs.Taps allow the service provider to deploy fewer optical fibers in rural applications since multiple users can tap into a single optical fiber.Higher-density urban and suburban FTTH networks often use a PON design. Standard PON networks are typically made with passive optical splitters. These splitters have a single incoming fiber (input) and split its signal up to typically 32 subscribers with a single fiber to each user (output). The passive optical splitter is used to take the signal and split it downstream to multiple users. The splitters are in ratios of 1:2, 1:4, 1:8, 1:16, or 1:32 (1:64 is available but less common). They take the single input and distribute it into symmetrical outputs (e.g., a 1×8 splitter takes one signal in and 8 signals out.) These splitters can be centralized or cascaded and distributed in the network. A distributed splitter-based PON network is a cost-effective design for urban and higher-density FTTH networks as it utilizes fewer switch ports, less fiber cabling, and unpowered splitters. This reduces capital and operational expenses for these point-to-multi-point networks compared to point-to-point Active Optical Networks. Graphic courtesy of The Fiber Optic Association www.thefoa.orgHowever, in rural markets, the subscriber density is lower, and the distances to connect them are longer. In these applications, a TAP network may be a more suitable design. In a TAP network, the fiber is deployed through the service area, and fiber optic taps divert optical signals to the subscriber. These taps can be thought of as distinct from the splitter.The output is not symmetrical like the splitters we noted above. The optic tap is spliced onto the fiber which splits off a portion of the signal, say, for example, 10%, and it passes the remaining 90% along to the next drops. The tap allows a pre-determined ratio of the signal to continue down the line to the next home or business.Multiple taps can be spliced onto the line and “daisy chained” along the route until the signal or loss budget is fully used up. Taps allow the service provider to deploy fewer optical fibers in rural applications since multiple users can tap into a single optical fiber.Graphic courtesy of The Fiber Optic Association www.thefoa.orgUCL Swift PSPL taps use asymmetrical 1×2 FBT couplers (Pass-Through) and a 1xN PLC splitter (Drop ports) in which the input signal is divided in two directions. The signal is directed to the Pass-Through port and also directed to the PLC splitter, where it is distributed to subscriber drop ports (N= 4,8,16 split ratios). To aid with network installations, UCL Swift PSPL hardened tap terminals are designed with color-coded caps to designate the tap port function. Blue Cap=Input Port. Orange Cap=Through Port. Black Cap=Output/drop port.Asymmetric optical tap solutions like UCL Swift’s require less fiber than a distributed splitter configuration.As mentioned in Part I, when you add more taps to the circuit, you reduce the amount of signal passing from one to the next. Eventually, as the circuit is populated with more and more taps and the signal is siphoned off for the associated users, the signal will become too weak to meet the system’s minimum performance requirements.At that time, the fiber optic strand is fully utilized and another strand must be used for additional users. So as with all fiber networks, the network designer needs to calculate the link loss budget to make sure the design does not exceed the limits.Rural areas provide different challenges than urban or suburban topologies in FTTH design, and the network engineer needs to consider all the options best suited for the location being served. The long distances to connect rural areas can contribute to the high amount of fiber required to serve that area. A key benefit of tap architecture is the reduction in the amount of fiber required, which allows the region to be served at a lower cost.Asymmetric optical tap solutions like UCL Swift’s require less fiber than a distributed splitter configuration. By using signal splitting, taps with established split ratios allow the use of fewer fibers than conventional centralized and distributed splitter architectures.This provides a network that reduces expenses on equipment and labor and is easy to maintain and expand. As such, optical tap networks are a cost-effective, operationally efficient design option for these applications.
Jan 21, 2024
How Do Optical Taps for FTTH Work?: Part 1
Several network designs can be used to provide fiber to the home (FTTH). Multi-System Operators (MSOs) or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) —the companies that deliver television, Internet, and phone services to their customers—may want to improve or expand the services available in a particular geographic region. They may also want to physically extend their network and reach a greater number of potential new customers. Installing a fiber optic network, since fiber optic cable offers greater throughput, higher speeds, and greater geographic reach than traditional copper-based networks, is the ideal solution.When designing fiber optic networks, these companies must take several variables into account, one of which is the distance needed to run new fiber optic cables. If the customers are spaced far apart, such as in rural applications, some solutions are preferable to others. This is where optical taps play a significant role in FTTH applications. Why Are Optical Taps Important in FTTH Applications?An optical tap, as the name implies, is a device that taps into a fiber optic strand. Multiple taps can be used on a single fiber optic strand. UCL Swift’s FX PSPL solutions are hardened devices that provide a robust, reliable connection of a subscriber to a service provider’s fiber optic network the size of a paperback book.They are generally installed on poles and messenger cables, in pedestals and handholes, and on the side of structures. These taps pull a targeted amount of signal from a fiber optic strand and then allow a very specific amount of signal to propagate along the fiber optic strand. When done correctly, this process allows multiple users to utilize a single fiber optic strand. Since fiber optic cables can have a single optical fiber or thousands of optical fibers, being able to use fewer optical fibers to reach your customer base reduces installation and operational expenses and can allow for faster installation speeds as well. Taps allow the service provider to require fewer optical fibers in rural applications since multiple users can tap into a single optical fiber strand.As you might expect with something called a “tap,” when you add more taps to the circuit, you reduce the amount of signal passing from one to the next. Eventually, as the circuit is populated with more and more taps and the signal is siphoned off for the associated users, the signal will become too weak to satisfy the system’s minimum performance requirements. At that time, the fiber optic strand is fully utilized and another strand must be used for additional users.
Jan 21, 2024
Have You Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers
“…any questions related to our products or processes can be found on our website.”As the reliance on company websites as a primary source of information has increased, so has the amount of content we expect to find. For example, a good website consists of pages such as corporate history, about us, mission, contact us, product descriptions etc. Users want what they need when they need it. Targeted answers to specific questions should be easy to find on your business’s website 24 hours a day. Generally speaking, people prefer not to call a helpline. UCL Swift North America recognizes our customers are no different. That’s why we’re pleased to launch a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on our website. Now, we can better address your online inquiries and provide the most accurate information about our innovative products, day or night. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions we receive about the following products:- Fiber optic fusion splicing equipment - Fusion splice-on connectors (FSOC) - Fiber optic cables- FTTH drop cable - Accessories “The goal of our new FAQ section,” said Steven Kenney, Product Line Manager for UCL Swift North America, “is to be a resource for anyone with questions regarding fiber optic fusion splicing technology, splice on connectors and fiber optic cable and assemblies. As our product line grows, we will continue adding relevant questions and answers to our FAQ section. As a leader in the industry, we want to ensure that any questions related to our products or processes can be found on our website.”Discover our All-In-One fusion splicers, and don’t forget to register your UCL Swift products. Want to speak to a person? We’ve got those, too! Our customer representatives are the best in the business.
Jan 21, 2024
UCL Swift Announces Fiber Drop Cable
We are proud to announce that we are currently stocking and shipping our factory-made SST-style 8.1 x 4.5mm flat drop cable in North America. We will be stocking a single-fiber and two-fiber solution.Though most of us are returning to a pre-COVID-19 lifestyle, some are continuing their newly adopted manner of living. Prior to COVID-19, working from home was a benefit only a few occupations and industries supported. This changed dramatically as the pandemic spanned months and then years. As a result, working virtually has become commonplace for a significant percentage of the population.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2019 to 2021, the number of individuals logging in outside the office tripled from 5.7% to 17.9%. Video conferencing, email, and chats now dominate the workday from our home offices. The bandwidth that was once only required of your company’s local area network is now required in residences across America and the globe.Your home’s internet connection must also support entertainment, including program streaming, real-time gaming, IP-based telephony, etc. concurrently with work-related applications. This increased demand has demonstrated the importance of reliable and fast internet connections for the home.New houses and multiple dwelling units must be connected to the internet with a connection capable of supporting today’s but tomorrow’s bandwidth requirements. As a result, fiber optic cable, specifically single-mode fiber optic cable, has become the media of choice for cable and internet service providers, often referred to as MSOs (Multiple Service Operators). Fiber optic cables offer increased distances and bandwidth over copper cables. Fiber optic cables are lighter, smaller, and less impacted by environmental conditions and electrical interference.In addition to new residential construction, fiber optic cables are also installed alongside aging copper-based systems in cities and towns across America.As Fiber to the Home (FTTH) deployments become commonplace, UCL Swift has been on the forward edge of connectivity solutions with our AIO (All-In-One) fusion splicers and FSOCs (Fusion Splice-On Connectors), enabling large and small service providers the ability to quickly connect their subscribers with the best field mating solution in the industry.By utilizing our Swift HDC Opti-Tap compatible connectors, service providers and their contractors now have the freedom to create low-cost custom drop cable lengths in the field versus purchasing and inventorying expensive pre-connectorized drop cable assemblies.As a result of the Swift HDC Opti-Tap connector’s success, our customers asked for a drop cable solution. We are proud to announce that we are currently stocking and shipping our factory-made SST-style 8.1 x 4.5mm flat drop cable in North America. We will be stocking a single-fiber and two-fiber solution.The drop cable is gel-free, offers a UV-resistant HDPE jacket, and includes internal strength members permitting self-supporting aerial installations. An optional toning conductor can be added for underground conduit applications. The UCL Swift FX solution enables a robust FTTH solution that installs easily and quickly.Whether it is new construction or dropping fiber optic links from existing infrastructure, the Swift FX solution delivers the performance required by the service provider and the flexibility desired by contractors. Terminations are made using a UCL Swift KF4A HDC fusion splicer designed specifically to splice its hardened connector to the drop cable. UCL Swift has provided the highest-quality fusion splicers, splice-on connectors, and assemblies for years. Our dedication to quality and customer support has helped us become a fusion splicing fiber optic technology leader. It is with this same level of commitment that we now offer our Swift FX FTTH solution. For more information, visit the UCL Swift website or inquire via the following email: SwiftFX@uclswiftna.com
Jan 21, 2024
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