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Distributed Splitting For

Rural FTTH Deployments
To make rural fiber deployments economical, place splitters in the field and
position them in locations that minimize the use of fiber.
By David Stallworth OFS

ven though most of Americas
geographic area is sparsely popu- The Broadband Summit will fea-
lated, very little research has been ture presentations on rural FTTH
done on the best ways of deploying fiber
to the home in rural areas. Serving scat-
technology, policy and develop
ment including a full day of
tered customers in rural areas challenges
typical methods of deploying FTTH, sessions sponsored by the Rural
such as placing splitters in cabinets or
home running fibers with splitters in
Telecommunications Congress.
the central office (CO). These methods,
which may work well elsewhere, are not cal loss and increases a networks over- is most economical. If, as in rural areas,
cost-effective in rural areas, where they all reliability by eliminating connectors the 32 customers are spread out over
result in long lengths of fiber between and jumpers that can cause problems. In more than 5,000 feet (or 1 mile), the
customers, increased splicing require- addition, fusion splicing the splitter ini- cable cost saving offsets the additional
ments, increased installation time and tially reduces installation time because splitter cost and the 1 x 4/1 x 8 option
reduced reliability. the installer does not have to visit the becomes more economical. The farther
splitter location. Finally, connectorized apart customers are, the more economi-
Distributed Splitting
drops are often infeasible in rural areas cal the 1 x 4/1 x 8 option becomes.
Minimizes Fiber Cable Sizes
because houses are often far from the Another alternative is to use a 1 x 8
In a sparsely populated area, it makes splitter to feed eight 1 x 4 splitters. Al-
road. This method creates no more splic-
sense to move the splitter as close to the though this alternative is slightly more
ing than placing splitters in cabinets or
home as possible to minimize the lengths expensive (between $5 and $10 per cus-
in the CO, as cabinet inputs and outputs
of the 32 output fibers and maximize tomer), it may offer a more attractive al-
must also be spliced initially.
the length of the single input fiber. This ternative by bringing splitters closer to
method, known as distributed splitting, Using Two Levels of Splitters homes, depending on how the popula-
can be accomplished by placing splitters The graph in Figure 1 compares the cost tion of a rural area is distributed.
in splice cases with fiber drops to elimi- of a 1 x 32 splitter and cable with the Using full-spectrum splitters that al-
nate the need for separate housing. cost of a 1 x 4 splitters feeding four 1 x8 low the passage of all available frequen-
Distributed splitters are also better splitters and cable. Although both op- cies in the fiber cable is essential. In
for accommodating unplanned growth, tions provide 32 outputs, they use differ- addition, because fiber has an inherent
because they can be installed in the right ent split techniques to reduce cable size. water-peak problem at certain frequen-
spots to handle growth. Cost models il- If 32 customers live within about 5,000 cies, the fiber deployed in all parts of
lustrating the advantage of distributed feet of one another, the 1 x 32 splitter the feeder and distribution cable should
splitting over other options are available
but beyond the scope of this article.
Distributed splitting has additional About the Author
economic benefits if the splitter is fusion David Stallworth is the design and product manager at OFS, a manufacturer of
spliced into the network at the outset. optical fiber and connectivity solutions. You can reach him at 770-798-2423 or by
Fusion splicing offers several benefits e-mail at
over connectorization: It reduces opti-

62 | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | www.broadbandproper | January 2010

a central point of origin minimizes the
Splitter Cost Versus PON Length amount of fiber required to reach all the
6000 endpoints. Figure 2 shows the splicing of
the splitters in a 1 x 4 arrangement. The
5000 1 x 4 splitter is represented by the blue
1 X 32
Splitt er triangle and the 1 x 8 splitters are repre-
4000 sented by green triangles.
Cost ($)

1X4/ Notice that once the blue feeder fiber

3000 1x 8 entering from the right is spliced to the
2000 Splitt er 1 x 4 splitter, the rest of the fiber is dead
and available for reuse. The dead blue fi-
1000 ber is reactivated (shown emerging from
the left of the 1 x 4 splitter) and spliced
0 to one of the 1 x 8 splitters down the
0 1 3 5 7 9 11
route. Once it is cut at the 1 x 8, it is
PON distance (thousand feet)
reused again for distribution out of the
Figure 1: As the distance between customers increases, a two-level splitter arrangement becomes 1 x 8. Conserving fiber in this way helps
more economical. drive down the cost of rural deploy-
ments. With this arrangement, it is now
possible to serve up to 352 customers if
none of the 12 feeder fibers is used for
8 distribution other than dead fibers pre-
viously used for feeding a 1 x 4.
If additional distribution fiber is
needed to reach more of the 1 x 8 split-
8 8 4 8 ters, another fiber can be cut in two, at-
tached to two different ports of the 1 x
4 splitter and used to serve two 1 x 8
splitters. (See the orange fiber in Figure
Figure 2: Cutting and reusing fiber minimizes the number of fibers required to serve a given area.
2.) Doing that avoids having to use two
separate fibers to serve the two 1 x 8
splitters. OFS studies indicate that us-
ing these methods allows fiber deploy-
ers to approach the cost of using copper
or coax in rural areas making FTTH
technology a viable rural candidate.
Although the 1 x 8 splitters deployed
at the second level may be suitable for
clusters of homes, they will be challeng-
ing to use in sporadically or sparsely
populated areas. In such areas, some of
the 12 feeder fibers must be used for dis-
Figure 3: When customers are too far from the splitter to be served with drop cables, distribution tribution from the 1 x 8 splitters, further
cables can be cut to serve them.
reducing the maximum number of cus-
tomers served. Smart placement of the
equal or exceed zero-water-peak fiber ning makes accommodating up to 352 1 x 8 splitters can minimize this impact.
standards. Failure to do this will require living units on a single 12-fiber buffer If the eight customers are spread out, fi-
cable reinforcement in the future. tube possible. The key is the location of bers can be cut at the 1 x 8 splitter and
the splitter. (Of course, more than 12 fi- the outputs fed to the customers via the
Maximizing the Use of Fiber bers may be needed in a rural area; the cut fiber.
Modeling the FTTH network yields 12-fiber case is simply an example.) In Figure 3, four fibers were cut at
some interesting discoveries that are In general, the most economical place a 1 x 8 splitter, and both sides of the
unique to this technology. The splitter to put a central office, node, splitter cabi- cut fibers were used for distribution.
turns one fiber into as many as 32 ports net, distributed splitter or drop closure is This is the extreme case and is not nor-
anywhere in the network. Proper plan- in the middle of its serving area because mally necessary, as the splitter should

January 2010 | www.broadbandproper | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | 63

rural areas using either 1 x 4, 1 x 8 or
a combination of both. There is noth-
ing wrong in mixing these two along a
8 8 route if necessary. Using two different
strategies in the same route does tend to
complicate things but not terribly much.
This option may seem difficult, but it is
only different.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about record keeping?
The technique described makes record
Figure 4: Once distribution cables have been cut and spliced to drop cables, they can be reactivated keeping important but not impossible.
and used for further distribution.
Using the 911 addressing process, a de-
ployer can assign a name to each splitter
be within reach of at least one customer at a 1 x 4 splitter needs to be cut to pro- location. (A similar technique is often
who could be served with a drop directly vide distribution for two of the four 1 used in the copper world for tandem
out of the splitter. x 4 output ports. Down the cable, dead crossboxes.) In rural areas, maintaining
These same fibers can be used for fibers should be available to distribute accurate records is paramount because
distribution from the next 1 x 8 split- from the third port of the splitter. The the facilities are scattered over a large
ter, as they are dead once they have been fourth port could serve a customer di- area and technicians must know where
spliced to a drop to serve a customer. Re- rectly out of the splitter and would not everything is located to reduce wind-
member that the dead blue fiber can also need to be in the cable. This would drop shield time.
be reused for distribution downstream
from the splitter.
Figure 4 shows the distribution de-
ployment using fibers in the cable to il- Strategic location of splitters and reactivation of
lustrate this concept. The houses served
are on different sides of the street for il- feeder and distribution cable for use downstream
lustrative purposes and can be randomly
distributed between the two splitters.
from the splitters helps reach a maximum
Figure 5 shows the alternative ar- number of customers with a minimum amount
rangement a 1 x 8 splitter feeding eight
1 x 4 splitters, with the 1 x 8 splitter of fiber optic cable. These techniques make fiber
positioned in the middle so fibers can deployment in rural areas economically viable.
be cut to feed the 1 x 4 splitters in both
This configuration allows service of
up to 288 customers with a single 12-fi- the capacity from 288 to 256 custom- Will growing bandwidth be more dif-
ber buffer tube. However, the 288 maxi- ers, still a good amount but less than the ficult if the splitters are in the field,
mum does not allow for distribution fi- 1 x 4 option discussed previously. An- rather than in a cabinet or a CO?
bers from the 1 x 4 splitters, which can other option is to serve two 1 x 4 split- No. The new 10GPON standards indi-
be a problem in rural areas. Providing ters directly out of the 1 x 8 in the same cate that bandwidth will be increased
for distribution fibers in the buffer tube closure and save a fiber for an additional by using more frequencies. This trend
reduces the number of customers who PON downstream. will continue in the future. Band-
can be served. However, only one fiber These options provide ways to serve width growth will involve changing the

Figure 5: Fibers can also be cut and reused when the eight-way splitter is at the first level.

64 | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | www.broadbandproper | January 2010

electronics on both ends of the fiber,
rather than reducing split ratios. This Because rural FTTH deployers have few
makes it possible to button up the out-
side plant and leave it alone. competitors, take rates tend to be high and
Each available frequency has a
129-terabit capacity, so what need is
splitters are more fully populated. This is another
there for manipulating the outside net- reason distributed splitting is more attractive
work? Designing the network appropri-
ately at the outset offers the capability than centralized splitting in rural areas.
to extend the life of the plant, signifi-
cantly reduce outages and maintenance,
increase revenue because of high reli- (a cut drop cable or an ONT failure). A Conclusion
ability, minimize the number of main- technician can go to the customers loca- In summary, moving the splitters close
tenance technicians, better utilize in- tion and perform tests from the ONT if to homes in rural areas makes sense eco-
vestment by activating dead fibers and necessary. A cabinet is not needed; in fact, nomically and operationally, although it
minimize optical loss. it can add to the potential for trouble be- requires some adjustment in thinking.
cause it contains failure-prone connectors Rural areas generally have few competi-
Is a cabinet needed for testing? and jumpers. tors and generate high take rates an-
No, and here is why: Most of the troubles Electronics vendors have excellent other reason distributed splitting is more
encountered will be confined to a single management systems that monitor the attractive than using cabinets or home-
customer. There are 32 customers beyond health of every ONT in a network. That running fibers. Bringing broadband to
the splitter. If one customer calls in with a information can be used to determine rural areas is expensive, but this method
problem, the location can be quickly de- trouble resolution. In addition, test helps reduce the cost impact compared
termined by observing the other 31 cus- equipment vendors have excellent test with other alternatives and provides a
tomers signals. If they are working, the gear on the market today that can test unique way to handle growth that was
trouble is probably unique to the caller through a splitter if necessary. unplanned. BBP

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January 2010 | www.broadbandproper | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | 65