802-379-1130 wkachmar@focenter.com

Today, fiber optic communications have been firmly established. We install networks both in the switched telephone and CATV networks with industry-standard methods, cables, and sometimes architecture. We have fiber to the home in large-scale implementations (FIOS, etc.). We regularly install fiber backbones in office buildings, in fact, sometimes even more than one providers network in a building. We extend our cellular network and back-haul almost exclusively on optical fiber.

 

If we are to believe the trade press, this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding what will happen. I do believe this. However, I question the pundits’ estimates regarding timing. I have watched as new technologies were declared “ready for primetime” and then did not live up to the hype. In many cases, the issues revolved around technological hurdles as well as financial ones. When the technologies finally did make economic sense, the large-scale installs occurred.

 

Many times in my career I have seen a market development specialist describe the three stages of technology adoption:

  1. Early adopters (usually about 5-10% of the addressable market) want the newest technology right now. (The latest iPhone is a good example.)
  2. The majority of users (about 75%) will adopt when they are given a valid incentive such as lower cost or more services.
  3. Those who lag the technology curve, (for example, me when it comes to social media) – also known as troglodytes – go to a new technology only when given no other choice.

 

Based on the above breakdown, many of the newest technologies will only see limited success in the short term. However, those steeped in the frontend learning curve will be best positioned to meet the demands of the largest bulk of users who must be given an incentive to install and use the new technology.

 

As I look today at the utilization of passive optical networks (PONs) fiber to the premises and optical drop cables to extend the cellular network, I see that the incentives are mostly cost and convenience. Communities want good broadband access to attract residents and businesses, so they will suffer the time and discomfort to install a new network. In most cases the reason the network is wanted – and valued – is that the client users of the medium (e.g., social media) have made use of higher bandwidth. So the actual incentive is not always for the end user (you and me), but rather to the merchants and municipalities that want us to spend our money in their locations.

 

Based on the above assumptions, I would postulate that many of the next-generation technologies will be less likely to invade our lives before we have truly enjoyed the benefits of the present upgrades, which may take advantage of one or two previous generations of optical fiber, cable, and system design. In that vein, I do not see the short-term benefits of some of the newest technologies considering some of the obstacles yet to be overcome: these are both in technology and cost.

 

Some moving-forward technologies include:

  • Ultra-dense wave division multiplexing
  • Multi-core optical fibers (and their connection issues)
  • No truck roll PON provisioning
  • Ultra-high bandwidth fibers

 

That said, I do see many technologies that are well on their way to rapid inclusion in standard systems. This includes technologies such as:

  • Blowing and jetting cable installation
  • Remote line testing
  • Virtual patch panel maintenance systems
  • Pushable cables

 

As you can see from my comments above, I am not picking winners and losers in technology but rather identifying when these various technologies will integrate into our systems. Plus, I’m providing my view on what forces will push that integration.

 

 

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Wayne Kachmar

About Wayne Kachmar

Wayne Kachmar has been in the optical cable industry for over 37 years. He has participated in many innovations and seen the maturing of the industry. Over the years, Wayne has been involved in many unique projects to provide optical cable in diverse environments such as the underwater ROV that penetrated the Titanic, as well as cable that is in service sensing sub-atomic particles in the Antarctic ice. Wayne developed a number of unique concepts and products using optical fibers as both information carriers and sensors where the cable became the sensor. These have included fiber laser ring gyroscope components and distributed acoustic sensors for terrestrial and underwater applications. As a principal investigator for many government sponsored projects, he has developed methods that push the state of the art in optical cable design and manufacture. Over his career, Wayne has been able to fuse this state of the art knowledge with conventional fiber cable design to significantly cost reduce both materials and processes. With over 50 granted patents in fiber optic cables, connectors and tools and over 60 patents published or in process, Wayne’s path to TE Connectivity started when he founded and ran Northern Lights Cable, Inc. in 1988. He sold the company to Prestolite Wire in late 1997 continuing as division CEO until 2000. In 2000, Prestolite Wire was packaged with other holdings of the owner to become GenTek (a publicly held company), which also acquired Krone that year. Wayne’s position transitioned to Director of R&D, managing the RD&E center. In 2004, all Krone divisions were acquired by ADC who itself was acquired by TE in December 2010. In 2012, Wayne was named a TE Fellow in electro-optic engineering based on the length and depth of his technical knowledge and accomplishments. This is the highest technical title within the TE structure with less than 20 persons worldwide out of 8000 scientists and engineers within TE. In 2015, Wayne incorporated his consulting company Technical Horsepower Consulting, LLC. and joined Fiber Optic Center, Inc. as their Optical Cable Technical Expert.