The electric utility marketplace is increasingly dependent on high-speed optical networks to assist daily operations. More than two decades, utilities have tried fiber optic media to assist their own internal applications. In additional the past several years, public power companies along with an occasional electric cooperative have ventured into Sheathing line for the advantages of their customers as well as the generation of additional revenue streams. Down the road, new construction and smart grid initiatives promise to grow fiber’s role even farther into electric utility operations. The past point is quite a statement due to the fact fiber has already been located on transmission lines and distribution lines, in generating stations, as well as substations.
So, if it is a given that optical fiber is a reality of the electric utility industry, then it is essential for people that have responsibility for the handling of utility assets to know some of the basic types of optical cable products and where those products best easily fit into the electrical grid. Since most of the fiber utilized by utilities is deployed in the outside-plant, many of the most common questions center around your selection of ribbon versus conventional loose tube cable designs and where one solution might be more economically viable compared to the other.
Outside plant cables, either aerial or underground, get nearer to the house.
Both ribbon cables and conventional loose tube cables are staples of the telecommunications industry and have been in existence for many years. Both products perform well in harsh outdoor environments, and both can be bought in a variety of configurations, including: all-dielectric, armored, aerial self-supporting, etc. The chief distinction between these product families may be the manner where the individual fibers themselves are packaged and managed within the cable. A ribbon cable provides the individual fibers precisely bonded together inside a matrix that could encompass as few as four or approximately 24 fibers. Typically, however, these matrixes, or “ribbons” are bonded together in a group of 12 and placed within a tube that holds multiple ribbons. In contrast, a loose tube cable design has between 2 to 24 individual fibers housed in multiple buffer tubes with every fiber detached in the other.
Practically anyone inside the electric utility industry with any degree of exposure to optical fiber products will know about the essential structure of loose tube cable. Ribbon cables, on the other hand, have enjoyed widespread adoption among regional and long-haul telephony providers but might be unfamiliar to some within the electric utility space. This unfamiliarity has a price since ribbon products can provide a four-fold advantage on loose tube designs in several applications:
Ribbon cable could be prepped and spliced a lot more rapidly than loose tube cables. This advantage results in less installation time, less installation labor cost, and significantly less emergency restoration time.
Ribbon cables enable a reduced footprint in splice closures and telecommunications room fiber management.
Ribbon cables offer greater packing density in higher fiber counts which enables more effective usage of limited duct space.
Ribbon cables are usually very cost competitive in counts above 96 fibers.
The 1st two advantages mentioned above are byproducts of the mass fusion splicing technology enabled by ribbon cable. A mass fusion splicer can splice each of the fibers in the ribbon matrix simultaneously. Thus, when a 12 fiber ribbon can be used, all those fibers may be spliced in approximately 12 seconds with average splice losses of .05 dB. In contrast, the typical loose tube cable requires each fiber to get spliced individually. So, by means of comparison, Optical fiber coloring machine requires 12 splices to be fully spliced while a 144 fiber count loose tube cable demands a full 144 splices. In addition to the time savings, a decreased total variety of splices also yields a decrease in the level of space essential for splicing. Hence, it comes with an associated decline in the quantity of space required to support splicing in closures and then in telecommunications room fiber management.
Your reader with experience using ribbon cable might offer two objections at this moment. The 1st objection is definitely the cost of mass fusion splicing equipment, and also the second objection is the painful and messy procedure for prepping large fiber count unitube ribbon cables. The very first objection is definitely overcome just by looking at the current prices of mass fusion splicers. During the last several years, the fee distinction between single-fiber and ribbon-fiber splicing equipment has decreased dramatically. The 2nd objection continues to be overcome through the development of all-dry optical cable products. Older ribbon cable products were painful to prep because of the infamous “icky-pick” gel used to provide water-blocking. The unitube style of many ribbon cable products translated into an excessive amount of gel and a general mess for the splicing technician. However, technologies allow both conventional loose tube and ribbon products to meet stringent water-blocking standards without having gels whatsoever. This dramatically lessens the cable prep time when splicing for product families. However, the fundamental form of ribbon cables signifies that the advantages of all-dry technology yield a lot more substantial reductions in cable prep time.
For low fiber count applications, ribbon cables possess a significant advantage in splicing costs. The very best point for conversion to ribbon cables typically occurs at 96 to 144 fibers according to the labor rates utilized for economic modeling. For the reason that range of fiber counts, any incremental cost difference between ribbon and loose fiber configurations will likely be offset by savings in splicing costs and installation time. For fiber counts similar to and greater than 144, the carrier will need a compelling reason to not deploy ribbon cables because of the reduced value of splicing and extremely comparable material costs.
Splicing costs vary tremendously in accordance with the local labor market. Typically, however, single-fiber fusion splicing costs are somewhere between $23 and $35 per-splice with a national level for standard outside-plant cable. For cost comparison purposes, we will split the real difference and assume that we need to pay $28 per-splice whenever we sub-contract or outsource single-fiber splicing. Whenever we outsource ribbon-fiber splicing, we will believe that each 12 fiber ribbon splice costs us $120. Ribbon-splicing costs also vary tremendously according to the local labor market, however the $120 number might be inside the high-average range.
So, based on those assumed splice costs, a typical loose-tube cable splice will surely cost us $4,032.00 on the 144 fiber count (144 single fibers x $28 per-splice) whereas the comparable ribbon cable splicing costs will be $1,440.00 (twelve 12-fiber ribbons x $120 per-splice). This provides us an absolute savings of $2,592.00 in splicing costs at every splice location. If the 144 fiber ribbon cable costs the same or under the comparable loose-tube cable, then your case for ribbon at this fiber count and higher will be the proverbial “no-brainer.” When a ribbon cable is available that may complete the task within this scenario, there is little reason to take into account the alternative.
The case for ribbon versus loose-tube optical cable is less compelling at lower fiber counts. For example, when utilizing those same per-splice costs within a 96 fiber count scenario, the ribbon cable saves us $1,728.00 each and every splice location. However, the financial benefit afforded from the splicing may be offset by higher cable price. Additionally, dexkpky80 quantity of splice locations may vary greatly in one application to another. Inside a typical utility application, however, 96 fiber configurations represent the stage where cable costs and splicing costs usually break regardless if comparing ribbon to loose tube.
The economics of fiber counts notwithstanding, you will still find several areas where either ribbon or loose-tube is the preferred option. By way of example, it requires four splices to correct a 48 fiber count ribbon cable in comparison with 48 splices for the loose-tube equivalent. On certain critical circuits, therefore, it could be desirable to have FTTH cable production line just due to advantages in emergency restoration. Also, ribbon cable goods are generally smaller which creates some space-saving advantages in conduit. However, some applications (fiber-to-the-home, for example) require multiple cable access locations where we take out only two to eight fibers coming from a cable for splicing using mid-sheath access techniques. In those instances, ribbon may be viable with new “splittable” ribbon technologies, but could possibly be less practical for some carriers than conventional loose tube. However, the gel-free technology found in both ribbon and loose-tube is a big labor savings feature in those circumstances. Aerial self-supporting cables (ADSS) still require the use of some gels, but any utility company installing fiber optic cable in every other application ought to be leaving the gel-remover during the shop. “Icky-pick” in conventional ribbon and loose-tube cables is really a relic of your 90’s as well as an addition to labor hours which is often easily avoided.
To sum it up, there may be not just a single network design that matches all applications, instead of a single cable that fits all network designs. However, learning the options and knowing where they fit can significantly impact installation time, labor costs, and emergency restoration time. Each of the choices field-proven and have been around for years. Utilities can leverage the advantages of these different solutions by simply remembering precisely what is available, and applying just a little basic math to compare cable costs, splicing costs, and labor hours.