Fiber-to-the-X, usually written as FTTX, is simply a catch all acronym for all of the variations on the use of fiber between the service provider and the customer premises. These include fiber-to-the-node (FTTN), fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC), fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), and fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP). This family of terminology is largely associated with the common carriers. The multisystem operators (MSO) refer to their access infrastructure as a hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) facility.
Fiber is being deployed in all carrier networks. Compared to metallic systems fiber has higher bandwidth and lower noise, providing carriers significant network capacity from which to deliver customer services. Providers using fiber include cable companies, power companies, and telephone companies (wireline and wireless).
Cable providers are pushing fiber close to the customer using coax for the final connection to the customer. Fiber in the distribution network provides the cable companies the ability to offer more channels and new services to their customers. Digital television, pay-per-view, high-speed data, and telephony services all require cable companies to increase the capacity of their outside plant. Fiber limits the requirement for repeaters, which reduces the noise in the network, improving quality.
Power companies use fiber to control the various components in their networks. This fiber has the potential to be used to offer entertainment, Internet access, and telephony services to their customers. For new construction the cost to deliver power is approximately six times the cost to deliver traditional telephone services. The incremental cost to the power company to provide fiber-based communications services to the customers is low.
The local telephone companies are in a business undergoing significant change. Traditional telephone services are declining, while competition for these services is growing. High-speed Internet access is becoming a requirement for many customers. The telephone companies’ challenge is to deliver a superior service to prevent customers from moving to cable or wireless service providers. While ADSL has been the answer, ADSL pushes the capability of the plant facilities and does not have the bandwidth to support entertainment services. Therefore, a new architecture is required. Like the cable companies, the telephone companies are pushing the fiber closer to the customer (i.e., curb or node), or to the customer in some instances (i.e., home or premises).
Pushing fiber to a distribution point close to the customer means more bandwidth is available to deliver to the customer. Remember, noise and distance are the key factors limiting bandwidth availability in a medium. Make the run shorter, gain bandwidth. Some companies are using this model to limit the loop to 500 feet, allowing the existing local loop to deliver up to 50 Mbps to the customer.
Another approach is to take the fiber all the way to the customer. This is the most expensive approach, but it is offering the greatest potential bandwidth to the customer. If a passive optical network (PON) architecture is used, the network reliability is increased significantly as there are no active components from the provider location to the customer location. This approach is suited to new developments and areas with a high percentage of aerial cable.
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