Adam Kealhofer, CPSC
January 24, 2024
The communication industry is getting much smaller. Not in terms of the need or usage of data and bandwidth, but in the physical materials that are being used to build networks. Whether its vaults, duct, pedestals, or the fiber optic cable itself, nearly all manufacturers are breaking the mold for how small essential components can be made.
There are many factors driving this change. One reason being right-of-way space is becoming less readily available than it once was; another being end users who have spent hours of painstaking work making their lawn look like Augusta National, only for a construction crew to tear it all up for an enormous pedestal or vault. The main driving force behind this trend, however, cost. Less material to make a product inevitably makes the product less expensive.
Most of what an internet provider buys begins with the fiber itself. Certain sized cable requires a certain sized duct to fit inside or requires a minimum bend radius resulting in a minimum size of vault to store it in.
I want to stress one very important point: Traditional fiber optic cable and microfiber cable use the same glass as one another. The difference comes from the thickness of the protective acolyte coating. The size of the core is identical, and the size of the cladding is identical. Traditional fiber coating is 250 microns. Microfiber is 200 microns, 180 microns, and there is word of a 160-micron coating coming in the near future. This difference may seem inconsequential, but if you compare 250 microns to 200 microns in a cable with288 fibers, over 10,000 ft, the result is a cable about half the diameter and a third of the weight.
Microfiber isn’t a new technology, but it has become much more popular in recent years. One reason being the speed of deployment. It is designed to be blown into a duct instead of pushed or pulled. This does require special equipment, but this equipment can place cable safely at 300 feet per minute. This also results in the possibility of longer runs of fiber between splice points, in some instances, up to 5000 feet. All in all, that means fewer vaults to place, less materials to buy, and faster deployment.
Microfiber may not be the perfect solution for every deployment situation, but as space in the ground or in the air becomes more congested, a smaller application may be the solution you need.
Meet The Author
Adam Kealhofer, CPSC
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