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Published on October 31, 2013

Walking a (last) mile in a tech’s shoes…

In the beginning, there was copper. All the way. From end to end. Life was simple: one test set to rule them all. That was so long ago that, at the time, everybody had only one TV in the house and the Internet as we know it wasn’t even a thought. For the longest time, adding TVs had no impact on bandwidth requirements, but then the Internet happened. Seemingly overnight, bandwidth requirements exploded, what with the Web and humongous FTP sites at first, then Flash, then YouTube and the likes, then businesses starting to use VoIP for intercontinental calls and video conferences, then video on demand and other things like Netflix. Times where getting tougher and, frankly, copper wasn’t cutting it anymore. And that was before everything seemed to turn to HD...

Luckily enough, optical fiber came along, providing seemingly boundless bandwidth. Transcontinental, ultra long-haul and long haul started converting to this new technology first. As time went by, the optical fiber got closer and closer to the home. Now, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is a reality in certain areas, especially in greenfield developments, and it’s spreading fast. But fiber has problems of its own. It’s more delicate, and needs much TLC, not to mention it’s not cheap. As with any new technology, it had a rocky start, but pressures for more bandwidth made it better real fast.

That being said, copper wasn’t going down that easy. For that now-famous last mile, it had a few more tricks up its sleeve. First, it had already crossed the wall everywhere, and second, with new technology and ideas, it could be made faster. To wit, recent advancements in DSL now allow the re-use of existing copper lines to boost VDSL2 performance over short distances. Add to that technologies such as bonding, vectoring (and soon, G.Fast), and all of a sudden, you end up with a very solid alternative that allows expanding copper bandwidth capacity to the home, especially in locations where FTTH would require grounding or digging.

Today, things are more complicated. Access networks are getting more and more hybrid. Where does fiber end? Where does copper start? If there is an issue, where is the fault? Is it the copper line or the fiber link? What team do I send? And where exactly? How many truck rolls will I need? What tests will the teams have to perform? With what tools? Do they have sufficient training to perform them? Answers to these questions all affect OPEX and CAPEX one way or another. Frankly, it’s a mesh... I mean “a mess”.

To help you make sense of it all and, hopefully, also help you choose the right test solution to fit the right application, EXFO used its considerable expertise and summed it all up in its very clear and concise FTTx and Hybrid Reference Poster available on our website. Get a clearer picture now!