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Latest Trends in Fibre Optic Cabling

Mon 27 Sep 2021 | Stephen Morris

Data Centre Networks

The largest transformation in the DC industry since ‘Cloud’ is ‘Edge’, with Edge DC’s bringing power, connectivity, and compute resources physically closer to where those assets are used.

A wide range of next generation applications will be supported by Edge data centres providing customers with lower latency, higher security, and greater control over their data.

Edge data centre deployments are moving from strategic planning phases to execution and 2021 has seen multi-tenant data centres become hosts for an expanding ‘Hyperscale’ client base who are deploying Edge resources across the EMEA region and beyond. The result is an explosion in the frequency of small-medium size projects, which are additional to traditional large-scale on-premise data centre deployments.

Deploying multiple projects, across multiple countries at the same time places immense pressure on project managers looking to ensure projects run on time and to budget. Dependency on the supply chain has never been greater with supply resilience, redundancy, channel, service and support key factors to delivering a successful program. Having the right products, in the right place at the right time is just the start.

Fibre data centre networks are becoming more evenly distributed geographically, more fibre count dense and are operating at increasingly higher speeds with Ethernet applications moving from 10G to 50/100/200 & 400G.

Higher density fibre distribution systems, smaller diameter cables and smaller connector solution are in part answering the fibre ‘densification’ challenge. However careful consideration must be given to ensure higher density solutions do not come with added (circuit) downtime risk. The value of each fibre circuit is increasing exponentially, for example, you could consider a 100G circuit 10X the value of a 10G circuit.

Service, scalability, and manageability of high-density fibre distribution systems is a key consideration to ensure system moves, adds and changes (MACs) are handled efficiently and ‘rip and replace’ scenarios avoided where appropriate.

There is increasing uptake and interest in the use of high core count ribbon cables, for example 288F, 576F or 864F. These can reduce cable diameter, and therefore cable volume, as an alternative to using a make-up of multiple smaller fibre count cables, thus take up less space in cable management systems and pathways. Such cables can be offered factory pre-terminated, in many situations this can reduce installation time by as much as 75 percent compared to field terminated systems.

Speeding up the installation process, field splicing ribbon fibres (12F spliced at the same time) provides greater efficiencies compared to traditional single fibre splicing practice.

A new breed of small form factor fibre connectors has been developed to address growing application needs, with the market yet to decide on their widespread adoption and popularity, these include MDC, SN and CS. Panduit has extended its HD Flex platform to offer CS connectivity.

CS® has been adopted by QSFP-DD, OSFP and the Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) – it is also widely supported by leading active equipment manufacturers, including Cisco and Arista for high speed data transport applications. Various transceivers and system supporting CS® are available for design and deployment today.

CS® is capable of delivering low insertion loss and high return loss, comparable to LC connectors, within a greatly reduced footprint.

Key benefits at a glance:

  • Double density in QSFP-DD and OSFP transceiver vs LC
  • 50% greater port density (per RU) in Panduit’s HD Flex™ cabling system
  • Push/pull feature facilitates access in high-density applications without disturbing adjacent circuits
  • Unitary cable reduces congestion in pathways and cable management
  • Easy to breakout – can negate the need for a harness (fan-out) in select applications
  • Singlemode and multimode options

Enterprise Networks

Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON) is becoming increasingly popular having gained more active support from leading active equipment manufacturers including Cisco.

GPON lowers the cost of ownership by reducing cabling, lowering power and negating need for an equipment closet (or Telcom/data room) vs a traditional two or three-tier switched Ethernet solution.

GPON deployment is forecast to grow double-digits year-on-year reaching $38Bn by 2027 (Global Industry Analysts, July 2020) with a special interest from building owners looking for a solution with energy efficiency, simple management, and minimum cabling.

With a focus on both greenfield and brownfield opportunities in hospitality, school campuses, office buildings, defence and healthcare facilities Panduit has recently extended its high-density fibre distribution product line (HD Flex™) to include optical splitter models that are ideal for PON/GPON network deployments.


What are the benefits of fibre optic cabling as compared to traditional copper cabling?

Bandwidth (information carrying capacity) and distance (reach) are two primary reasons for choosing fibre over copper. Fibre is considered more future proof than copper and will extend beyond today’s ethernet speeds of up to 400G to support the future Terabit roadmap.

Twisted pair copper cabling is not a strong contender beyond 10G Ethernet, and its reach is limited to a mere 30m for 40G.

Fibre is immune to the effects of electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI) and cross talk which can cause performance challenges and security concerns in copper-based systems. Fibre cable can also be run next to medical or industrial equipment without performance or interference concerns.

Fibre is lightweight and smaller in diameter (compared to copper) – this can improve cable management and reduce space in cable pathways.  Smaller cable diameters also improve the visibility of port labels and active equipment LED’s.

Is fibre optic ideal only for short reach applications?

Fibre is ideal for short and long-reach applications. It is used to span campus area networks, cities, countries and even spans continents.

Essentially all metro, regional, long haul, and submarine networks today are fibre-based, meaning they can already scale and grow by leveraging the very latest in optical transmission technologies.

How critical is fibre optic to 5G success?

5G’s network performance goals (bandwidth, reach, latency, immunity to EMI) are heavily predicated on the availability of fibre to cell sites and require fibre capacity to achieve the connectivity density that a full 5G rollout will require.

Optical fibre is already a preferred medium for existing wireless backhaul networks, and even in networks where this is not the case, the wireless backhaul eventually needs to connect into a fibre backhaul.

Data communications are advancing from ‘mission critical’ to ‘life critical’ and fibre will become an increasingly prevalent and crucial part of networking infrastructure.

Experts featured:

Stephen Morris

Senior Product Manager, connectivity solutions


cabling data center fibre optics
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