Envisioning the Future of Fibre in MENA

With the massive growth in fiber across the region, tied into the acceleration of digital transformation we are witnessing, it is a no surprise that we interact with fiber on a daily basis in some form or the other. Mohammed Farhat, Market and Technology Development Manager for outside plant cables at Corning speaks to ITP.net about a few things to consider for fiber as we look at the future, including density, adaptability, and sustainability.

Fibre was invented more than 50 years ago. While still relatively young when compared to other communications technologies, it has undergone numerous evolutions.

Mohamad Farhat, Market and Technology Development Manager for outside plant cables at Corning

Fibre optic cabling is at the heart of our modern connected world, transmitting massive amounts of data daily. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the history of fibre is a rich one. Analysts from IDATE DigiWorld recently noted that there are approximately 5.2 million fibre-to-the-home or fibre-to-the-business subscribers in MENA, up around 30% compared to 2020 estimates. Countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have led extraordinary fibre deployment initiatives in recent years.

But the fibre we have come to depend upon bears little resemblance to its predecessors from just 20 years ago. With that in mind, let’s take a step back and celebrate the past and present of fibre—as well as its future potential.

The evolution of fibre

Fibre was invented more than 50 years ago. While still relatively young when compared to other communications technologies, it has undergone numerous evolutions.

 

The first iteration was simple: it connected homes and businesses to one another and allowed a back-and-forth flow of data. In the 1990s and 2000s there was a strong preference for low fibre dispersion to reduce the number of components in the network, hence avoiding hefty capital infrastructure investments.

As applications that rely on fibre became more complex, so too did the fibre itself. Around 10 years ago, the telecommunications industry began rapidly accelerating, creating a demand for better integration of fibre into appliances and technologies and the latest “growth spurt” in fibre innovation. Fibre was no longer an afterthought but rather one of the first considerations when designing a network.

Today, the current state of fibre has taken integration to an entirely new level. Rather than just connecting disparate locations with long, straight cable runs, fibre now permeates facilities themselves. This required new kinds of optical fibres to withstand tight bends without incurring significant signal loss. Optical fibre attenuation is now also key to ensure high transmission data rates over long distances in the outside plant environment.

 

All of these evolutions are driven by one key consideration: a constantly increasing demand for bandwidth. Consumers and companies are using more and more data every day, and service providers must account for this demand without lag or signal loss. Just in the past few years, the remote work revolution sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the demand and applied new pressure to offices, hotels, homes, and more. As we look to the next decade, fibre will only become more integral to how we stay connected.

For most people, not a single day goes by without interacting with some aspect of fibre. You may not be able to see it, but the data you are sharing—even while reading this from a laptop or phone—is dependent on fibre.

Fibre is also playing a key role in other emerging technologies. On the surface, concepts such as autonomous vehicle transport may seem to be entirely based in the cloud, with wireless signals constantly flowing to keep cars connected and people safe. But, like cellular communications, fibre is critical to the architecture that supports them.

 

No matter what form of technology you are using today, fibre is helping keep you connected.

Fibre’s future

Given the MENA region’s ambitious national development plans—many anchored in part on ubiquitous digital infrastructure—we must also be thinking about where fibre goes from here. Today, there are three things we really must keep watch of: density, adaptability, and sustainability.

As fibre optics replace older forms of cabling in more and more situations, it will need to adapt to fit in increasingly dense spaces. Therefore, the diameter of optical fibres must continue to decrease without sacrificing bandwidth or its ability to bend. To achieve a higher density in the network, operators have two options:

  • Keeping the cable diameter the same, but using smaller and therefore more fibres.
  • Keeping the fibre count the same, but miniaturising the cable itself.

Either way it gives network operators more density without taking up more space in the ducts.

Dense cables with higher fill factors lead to pressure points along the cable. Optimised bendability is therefore key to ensuring the performance does not suffer. This demand has transformed many fibre offerings and inspired manufacturers to introduce new solutions that are both smaller and more resilient.

Another factor is adaptability. The systems that use fibre are constantly changing to account for new technologies as well as greater amounts of data. Service providers cannot afford to build infrastructures that require a major overhaul of fibre every time there is an update. Smaller fibres mean smaller cables which in return enables more microducts to be used in a given duct space.

The final consideration for fibre is sustainability. As with every other industry, today’s consumers are placing greater emphasis on the environmental impact of their technology solutions. Fibre optic cabling consumes a fraction of the energy of its copper counterparts, requires less maintenance, is more future-ready, so it won’t need to be replaced as often. Further, its chief material of silicon dioxide is stable and abundant, and its extraction methods are environmentally friendly as well. The development towards smaller cables leads to a reduction of the amount of raw material used which in turn leads to a lesser carbon footprint, smaller transportation costs and less required storage space. Renewable energy sources in factories and manufacturing sites contribute to a more sustainable future.

To meet this future potential, we must continue to invest heavily in fibre research and development, making sure that the fibre we create today will meet the needs of tomorrow.

 

Source

   

 Fujairah FZ Fujairah 4442 ,Dubai

     United Arab Emirates

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