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Woah! Learning the Technical Side of Fibre Optics

WDM PON Wavelength Passive Optical Network

As a person who has spent the vast majority of his adult life working in telecommunications, I have to admit I was amazed reading about the Incredible Uses of Fibre Optics last month. But I was also surprised that the power of fibre optics in telecommunications wasn’t represented. Then I thought, “Hey! I can do something about that! I’ll write a follow-up.”

So here are a couple of technologies specific to the telecommunications industry that bring out the power in fibre optics.

Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM):

You might be thinking, “What the blank is Wavelength Division Multiplexing?!” Quite simply, this is a technology that multiplexes multiple optical signals or services onto a single fibre optic cable by using different colours of light. Wait…what?

In everyday terms, this means that different types of telecommunications services can be sent from one location to another using just one strand of fibre. Metaphorically, imagine FedEx could take hundreds of boxes, envelopes and packages and then stuff them all into one tiny compact crate. They could ship that across the world lickity-split and on the other side they would open the crate and take out all the boxes, envelopes and packages – in perfect condition and ready for the end receiver.

In telecommunications, this packaging and unpackaging is extremely valuable as it vastly increasing the value of a network. With fibre optics, you can send massive amounts of data that supports different services over these networks, and by updating the packaging and unpackaging components on either side of the line you’ll get even more out of WDM. 

Wavelength WDM

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Now this is where it may get even more technical…

If a transport facility were designed at 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) without WDM, you would be limited to that speed for your facility. With WDM, you could run multiples of the same circuit on the same fibre pair. Think of the types of speed possible in that scenario. WDM allows the multiplication of these facilities, and that will maximise the potential of each fibre pair. 

In the Wavelength world, there is rapid growth in the industry. Commonly available equipment allows for 10, 40 and 100 Gbps speeds on individual links, and that gives a lot of option for the services that can be offered.

Using 40 Gbps as an example, if a carrier used a 44 port photonic filter they would be able to build a transport network with 1,760 Gbps of available capacity. That’s a huge capacity for transferring data.

Most carriers have been using this technology for a long time to create more capacity and redundancy without the need to lay more fibre. It’s a great application for their transport and backhaul facilities as it keeps the overhead costs down.

In the past several years, carriers have made new services available to customers by using this same technology. Using Wavelength services, it has been possible to create additional bandwidth for wide area networks (WAN) to share data across geographical spans (think universities and corporations with many office locations) along with multiple other applications for business.

Customers commonly use Wavelength service to grow beyond 1 Gbps capacity as bandwidth hungry applications are used more frequently and aggregate multiple networks are used on a common platform (for example, storage, WAN and video). Wavelength may also be used to reduce latency and increase the continuity of a customer's data with improved business continuity profiles (via diverse or high-availability builds).

This technology will only continue to evolve, offering new features and functionality combined with higher speeds.

Passive Optical Network (PON):

PON is a network architecture that uses point-to-multiple point fibre to the end points using unpowered optical splitters to enable a single optical fibre to serve multiple end-points.  Did I lose you? No problem, let’s get back to what this means in everyday terms.

Let’s say a telecommunications provider lays a main fibre optic line in the ground from their location to downtown Winnipeg. This is what would essentially connect your services. But rather than connecting it to just one location, the PON splits out from that one fibre and goes to a bunch of different businesses. This allows multiple businesses in that area to be connected to the one line and ultimately makes the network more valuable for everyone.Description: Optical Network PON

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This PON is the technology that is allowing telecommunications providers to provide fibre optic cable to serve homes and businesses with broadband services.

In new developments across Manitoba, this is being used as an alternative to traditional copper or coaxial cabling. This technology helps to replace ageing facilities and ensures that residential and business locations have the bandwidth they need.

For more on fibre optics in Manitoba, check out the Wired Solutions section of the Business Hub.

Curtis Prystupa

Curtis Prystupa is a blue collar guy that wears a white collar every day because of his passion for helping businesses connect via telecommunications. A Bell MTS career man with 15 years of experience in Marketing, Management, Sales, Service and Technical Support, Curtis is also a proud family man and a drag racing (and overall automotive) fanatic. If you run into him on evenings or weekends don’t be surprised to see him up to his elbows in grease from his latest project.

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