The electric utility marketplace is increasingly reliant on high speed optical networks to support daily operations. More than two decades, utilities have used fiber optic media to back up their own internal applications. In the past few years, public power companies as well as an occasional electric cooperative have ventured into Fibers in stainless steel tube production line for the advantages of their clientele along with the generation of additional revenue streams. In the future, new construction and smart grid initiatives promise to grow fiber’s role even farther into electric utility operations. The last point is quite a statement considering fiber is already available on transmission lines and distribution lines, in generating stations, as well as substations.
So, should it be a particular that optical fiber is a reality from the electric utility industry, then its vital for those with responsibility for your control over utility assets to learn a number of the basic types of optical cable products and where those products best fit into the electric grid. Since a lot of the fiber used by utilities is deployed within the outside-plant, many of the most common questions center around selecting ribbon versus conventional loose tube cable designs and where one solution is much more economically viable compared to other.
Outside plant cables, either aerial or underground, get even closer to the house.
Both ribbon cables and conventional loose tube cables are staples in the telecommunications industry and have been in existence for years. Both products work well in harsh outdoor environments, and both can be found in a variety of configurations, including: all-dielectric, armored, aerial self-supporting, etc. The main distinction between these two product families is definitely the manner where the individual fibers themselves are packaged and managed throughout the cable. A ribbon cable has the individual fibers precisely bonded together in a matrix that could encompass as few as four or up to 24 fibers. Typically, however, these matrixes, or “ribbons” are bonded together in a team of 12 and placed in a tube that holds multiple ribbons. As opposed, a loose tube cable design has between 2 to 24 individual fibers housed in multiple buffer tubes with each fiber detached through the other.
Just about anyone from the electric utility industry with any amount of contact with optical fiber products will know about the fundamental structure of loose tube cable. Ribbon cables, on the other hand, have enjoyed widespread adoption among regional and long-haul telephony providers but might always be unfamiliar to many within the electric utility space. This unfamiliarity has a price since ribbon products can provide a four-fold advantage over loose tube designs in numerous applications:
Ribbon cable may be prepped and spliced far more rapidly than loose tube cables. This advantage translates into less installation time, less installation labor cost, and considerably less emergency restoration time.
Ribbon cables enable a smaller footprint in splice closures and telecommunications room fiber management.
Ribbon cables offer greater packing density in higher fiber counts which enables more effective use of limited duct space.
Ribbon cables are normally very cost competitive in counts above 96 fibers.
The initial two advantages listed above are byproducts of your mass fusion splicing technology enabled by ribbon cable. A mass fusion splicer can splice every one of the fibers within a ribbon matrix simultaneously. Thus, when a 12 fiber ribbon is commonly used, those fibers can be spliced in about 12 seconds with average splice losses of .05 dB. On the other hand, the typical loose tube cable requires each fiber to get spliced individually. So, by using comparison, optical fiber ribbon machine requires 12 splices in order to be fully spliced while a 144 fiber count loose tube cable demands a full 144 splices. Besides the time savings, a decreased total number of splices also yields a decrease in the volume of space required for splicing. Hence, there is an associated decrease in the amount of space found it necessary to support splicing in closures as well as in telecommunications room fiber management.
Your reader with experience using ribbon cable might offer two objections at this moment. The initial objection is definitely the expense of mass fusion splicing equipment, and the second objection would be the painful and messy procedure for prepping large fiber count unitube ribbon cables. The first objection is readily overcome by merely checking out the current prices of mass fusion splicers. Within the last few years, the cost difference between single-fiber and ribbon-fiber splicing equipment has decreased dramatically. Another objection has become overcome through the introduction of all-dry optical cable products. Older ribbon cable products were painful to prep because of the infamous “icky-pick” gel utilized to provide water-blocking. The unitube design of many ribbon cable products translated into an excess of gel along with a general mess for that splicing technician. However, technologies allow both conventional loose tube and ribbon products to fulfill stringent water-blocking standards without gels whatsoever. This dramatically cuts down on the cable prep time when splicing for both product families. However, the basic form of ribbon cables means that the main advantages of all-dry technology yield much more substantial reductions in cable prep time.
For low fiber count applications, ribbon cables possess a significant advantage in splicing costs. The most effective point for conversion to ribbon cables typically occurs at 96 to 144 fibers based on the labor rates useful for economic modeling. In this selection of fiber counts, any incremental cost distinction between ribbon and loose fiber configurations will be offset by savings in splicing costs and installation time. For fiber counts comparable to and greater than 144, the carrier would need a compelling reason not to deploy ribbon cables due to the reduced price of splicing and incredibly comparable material costs.
Splicing costs vary tremendously based on the local labor market. Typically, however, single-fiber fusion splicing expenses are somewhere within $23 and $35 per-splice on the national level for standard outside-plant cable. For cost comparison purposes, we shall split the real difference and assume that we have to pay $28 per-splice when we sub-contract or outsource single-fiber splicing. When we outsource ribbon-fiber splicing, we shall imagine that each 12 fiber ribbon splice costs us $120. Ribbon-splicing costs also vary tremendously dependant upon the local labor market, however the $120 number is most likely within the high-average range.
So, based on those assumed splice costs, a standard loose-tube cable splice costs us $4,032.00 in the 144 fiber count (144 single fibers x $28 per-splice) whereas the comparable ribbon cable splicing costs is going to be $1,440.00 (twelve 12-fiber ribbons x $120 per-splice). This gives us an overall total savings of $2,592.00 in splicing costs each and every splice location. In the event the 144 fiber ribbon cable costs exactly the same or lower than the comparable loose-tube cable, then the case for ribbon at that fiber count and higher will be the proverbial “no-brainer.” When a ribbon cable can be obtained that can get the job done within this scenario, there is little reason to take into consideration the alternative.
The case for ribbon versus loose-tube optical cable is less compelling at lower fiber counts. As an example, when using those same per-splice costs in the 96 fiber count scenario, the ribbon cable saves us $1,728.00 each and every splice location. However, the financial benefit afforded through the splicing might be offset by higher cable price. Additionally, dexkpky80 amount of splice locations may vary greatly from a single application to another. In the typical utility application, however, 96 fiber configurations represent the stage where cable costs and splicing costs often break regardless if comparing ribbon to loose tube.
The economics of fiber counts notwithstanding, there are still a number of places that either ribbon or loose-tube is definitely the preferred option. As an example, it will take four splices to fix a 48 fiber count ribbon cable in comparison to 48 splices for the loose-tube equivalent. On certain critical circuits, therefore, it could be desirable to obtain Optical fiber coloring machine just due to advantages in emergency restoration. Also, ribbon cable products are generally smaller which creates some space-saving advantages in conduit. However, some applications (fiber-to-the-home, as an illustration) require multiple cable access locations where we grab only two to eight fibers from the cable for splicing using mid-sheath access techniques. In those instances, ribbon could be viable with new “splittable” ribbon technologies, but could be less practical for some carriers than conventional loose tube. However, the gel-free technology located in both ribbon and loose-tube is a big labor savings feature in those circumstances. Aerial self-supporting cables (ADSS) still require the usage of some gels, but any utility company installing fiber optic cable in every other application ought to be leaving the gel-remover back in the shop. “Icky-pick” in conventional ribbon and loose-tube cables is really a relic of the 90’s along with an accessory for labor hours which can be easily avoided.
To sum it, there exists not just a single network design that matches all applications, instead of a single cable which fits all network designs. However, understanding the options and knowing where they fit can significantly impact installation time, labor costs, and emergency restoration time. All the choices are field-proven and have been around for many years. Utilities can leverage the main advantages of these different solutions just by remembering what exactly is available, and applying a little bit basic math to compare and contrast cable costs, splicing costs, and labor hours.