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Technology evolves at a rapid-fire pace. That’s why we’ve built an easy-to-use glossary to help you better understand the terms, technologies and trends that impact your business.

Distributed tap architecture (DTA)

Distributed Tap Architecture (DTA) is a particular design used in fiber-optic networks, especially in rural areas, where homes and businesses are more sparsely located. The primary idea behind DTA is to incrementally tap off a portion of the optical signal as it passes along the fiber to serve customers, without having to split the signal evenly to multiple endpoints, as is common in more densely populated areas.

An unbalanced splitter in the context of a DTA refers to a splitter that doesn't split the optical signal equally. Instead, it takes off a smaller portion of the signal for a nearby customer and lets the larger portion continue down the line to serve other customers further away. For instance, in a typical balanced splitter scenario, you might use a 1:2 splitter that divides the incoming signal evenly between two outputs. In contrast, an unbalanced splitter might take off only 10% (or another smaller percentage) of the signal for a nearby customer and allow the remaining 90% to continue on to serve other customers.

The DTA approach provides several benefits for rural deployments:

  • Efficient signal use: In rural areas, where homes are spread out, it doesn't always make sense to split the signal equally, especially when some homes might be very close to the fiber route and others might be much further away.
  • Scalability: As the fiber extends through the rural area, more taps can be added to serve new customers without a significant overhaul of the existing network.
  • Cost-effective and simplified design: This architecture is logistically more cost-effective for serving sparsely populated areas. It simplifies network design and reduces the number of components needed, especially in areas where the demand isn't as predictable.

However, there are also challenges to consider, such as signal degradation. As the signal is repeatedly tapped, there's a reduction in power. Network designers need to ensure that the remaining signal is still strong enough to serve customers further down the line. Additionally, as more taps are added, or as customer bandwidth demands increase, the network may need adjustments or upgrades.

This architecture also introduces new complexity to measure loss as well as in the post-processing of reports.

Check out our flyer around these issues:

Losing your balance with tapered splitters?
Characterize, map and correlate link events automatically on reports to save time on your federally funded projects for rural deployments.