The electric utility sector is increasingly dependent on high-speed optical networks to support daily operations. For more than two decades, utilities have used fiber optic media to support their very own internal applications. In additional recent years, public power companies plus an occasional electric cooperative have ventured into Sheathing line for the advantages of their clients along with the generation of additional revenue streams. Later on, new construction and smart grid initiatives promise to grow fiber’s role even farther into electric utility operations. The past point is a reasonably statement considering that fiber is definitely found on transmission lines and distribution lines, in generating stations, and even in substations.
So, when it is a particular that optical fiber is a reality of your electric utility industry, then it is important for people that have responsibility for your control over utility assets to know a few of the basic categories of optical cable products and where those products best easily fit in the electrical grid. Since most of the fiber made use of by utilities is deployed in the outside-plant, many of the most common questions center around the selection of ribbon versus conventional loose tube cable designs and where one solution is much more economically viable compared to the other.
Outside plant cables, either aerial or underground, get nearer to your home.
Both ribbon cables and conventional loose tube cables are staples of your telecommunications industry and have been in existence for years. Both products perform well in harsh outdoor environments, and both can be found in a multitude of configurations, including: all-dielectric, armored, aerial self-supporting, etc. The main distinction between these product families will be the manner where the individual fibers are packaged and managed inside the cable. A ribbon cable provides the individual fibers precisely bonded together in the matrix that may encompass as few as four or as many as 24 fibers. Typically, however, these matrixes, or “ribbons” are bonded together in a team of 12 and placed in the tube that holds multiple ribbons. In comparison, a loose tube cable design has between 2 to 24 individual fibers housed in multiple buffer tubes with every fiber detached through the other.
Just about anyone inside the electric utility industry with any amount of exposure to optical fiber products will know about the essential structure of loose tube cable. Ribbon cables, on the flip side, have enjoyed widespread adoption among regional and long-haul telephony providers but might always be unfamiliar to some inside the electric utility space. This unfamiliarity has a price since ribbon products can provide a four-fold edge over loose tube designs in many applications:
Ribbon cable might be prepped and spliced far more rapidly than loose tube cables. This advantage results in 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 efficient usage of limited duct space.
Ribbon cables are generally very cost competitive in counts above 96 fibers.
The 1st two advantages in the above list are byproducts of the mass fusion splicing technology enabled by ribbon cable. A mass fusion splicer can splice every one of the fibers in the ribbon matrix simultaneously. Thus, if a 12 fiber ribbon is utilized, those fibers may be spliced in approximately 12 seconds with average splice losses of .05 dB. In comparison, the conventional loose tube cable requires each fiber to get spliced individually. So, through comparison, SZ stranding line requires 12 splices just to be fully spliced while a 144 fiber count loose tube cable demands a full 144 splices. Along with the time savings, a decreased total amount of splices also yields a reduction in the quantity of space required for splicing. Hence, it comes with an associated reduction in the amount of space needed 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 stage. The very first objection will be the cost of mass fusion splicing equipment, as well as the second objection is definitely the painful and messy procedure for prepping large fiber count unitube ribbon cables. The very first objection is readily overcome simply by studying the current prices of mass fusion splicers. In the last few years, the cost distinction between single-fiber and ribbon-fiber splicing equipment has decreased dramatically. The next objection is 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 utilized to provide water-blocking. The unitube model of many ribbon cable products translated into an excessive amount of gel as well as a general mess for the splicing technician. However, new technologies allow both conventional loose tube and ribbon products to satisfy stringent water-blocking standards without gels whatsoever. This dramatically cuts down on the cable prep time when splicing for product families. However, the standard style of ribbon cables means that the benefits of all-dry technology yield more substantial reductions in cable prep time.
Even 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 array of fiber counts, any incremental cost distinction between ribbon and loose fiber configurations will likely be offset by savings in splicing costs and installation time. For fiber counts equivalent to and higher than 144, the carrier would require a compelling reason to not deploy ribbon cables due to the reduced expense of splicing and very comparable material costs.
Splicing costs vary tremendously in line with the local labor market. Typically, however, single-fiber fusion splicing expenses are somewhere between $23 and $35 per-splice over a national level for standard outside-plant cable. For cost comparison purposes, we are going to split the main difference and imagine that we must pay $28 per-splice once we sub-contract or outsource single-fiber splicing. When we outsource ribbon-fiber splicing, we will believe that each 12 fiber ribbon splice costs us $120. Ribbon-splicing costs also vary tremendously based on the local labor market, however the $120 number is probably inside the high-average range.
So, based upon those assumed splice costs, an ordinary loose-tube cable splice costs us $4,032.00 at 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 will give us an overall savings of $2,592.00 in splicing costs at each splice location. In the event the 144 fiber ribbon cable costs exactly the same or under the comparable loose-tube cable, then a case for ribbon in that fiber count and better may be the proverbial “no-brainer.” Every time a ribbon cable is available that will perform the job with this scenario, there is little reason to consider the alternative.
The way it is for ribbon versus loose-tube optical cable is less compelling at lower fiber counts. For instance, when you use those same per-splice costs in the 96 fiber count scenario, the ribbon cable saves us $1,728.00 at every splice location. However, the financial benefit afforded with the splicing might be offset by higher cable price. Additionally, dexkpky80 amount of splice locations can differ greatly in one application to another. Inside a typical utility application, however, 96 fiber configurations represent the point where cable costs and splicing costs tend to break even when comparing ribbon to loose tube.
The economics of fiber counts notwithstanding, there are still a few locations where either ribbon or loose-tube will be the preferred option. For instance, it will take four splices to correct a 48 fiber count ribbon cable compared to 48 splices for that loose-tube equivalent. On certain critical circuits, therefore, it may be desirable to get Optical fiber coloring machine just as a result of advantages in emergency restoration. Also, ribbon cable goods are generally smaller which creates some space-saving advantages in conduit. On the other hand, some applications (fiber-to-the-home, for instance) require multiple cable access locations where we grab only two to eight fibers from a cable for splicing using mid-sheath access techniques. In those instances, ribbon could be viable with new “splittable” ribbon technologies, but may be less practical for some carriers than conventional loose tube. However, the gel-free technology present in both ribbon and loose-tube is a huge 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 almost any other application needs to be leaving the gel-remover back into the shop. “Icky-pick” in conventional ribbon and loose-tube cables is a relic of your 90’s as well as an addition to labor hours which can be easily avoided.
To sum it, there exists not much of a single network design that fits all applications, and never one particular cable that suits all network designs. However, learning the options and knowing where they fit can significantly impact installation time, labor costs, and emergency restoration time. Every one of the choices are field-proven and have existed for many years. Utilities can leverage the main advantages of these different solutions by merely remembering precisely what is available, and applying just a little basic math to evaluate cable costs, splicing costs, and labor hours.