The electrical utility marketplace is increasingly dependent on high speed optical networks to assist daily operations. For over two decades, utilities used fiber optic media to assist their particular internal applications. In the past several years, public power companies as well as an occasional electric cooperative have ventured into Fibers in stainless steel tube production line for the main benefit of their potential customers and 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 quite a statement considering fiber has already been seen on transmission lines and distribution lines, in generating stations, and even in substations.
So, if it is a given that optical fiber is a reality in the electric utility industry, then it is important for individuals with responsibility for your treatments for utility assets to understand a few of the basic groups of optical cable products and where those products best fit into the electric grid. Since many of the fiber made use of by utilities is deployed in the outside-plant, many of the most common questions center around picking 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 even closer to the property.
Both ribbon cables and conventional loose tube cables are staples in the telecommunications industry and have been around for several years. Both products work well in harsh outdoor environments, and both are available in a multitude of configurations, including: all-dielectric, armored, aerial self-supporting, etc. The primary 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 offers the individual fibers precisely bonded together inside a matrix that might encompass as few as four or as many as 24 fibers. Typically, however, these matrixes, or “ribbons” are bonded together in a group of 12 and placed within a 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 from your other.
Practically anyone from the electric utility industry with any level of exposure to optical fiber products will know about the basic structure of loose tube cable. Ribbon cables, alternatively, have enjoyed widespread adoption among regional and long-haul telephony providers but might be unfamiliar to a few inside the electric utility space. This unfamiliarity carries a price since ribbon products will offer a four-fold edge over loose tube designs in several 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 lesser footprint in splice closures and telecommunications room fiber management.
Ribbon cables offer greater packing density in higher fiber counts which enables more efficient use of limited duct space.
Ribbon cables are normally 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 all of the fibers inside a ribbon matrix simultaneously. Thus, in case a 12 fiber ribbon can be used, all those fibers may be spliced in approximately 12 seconds with average splice losses of .05 dB. In contrast, the typical loose tube cable requires each fiber to become spliced individually. So, through comparison, secondary coating line requires 12 splices just to be fully spliced while a 144 fiber count loose tube cable requires a full 144 splices. As well as the time savings, a decreased total quantity of splices also yields a decline in the volume of space needed for splicing. Hence, there is an associated reduction in the level of space necessary to support splicing in closures and in telecommunications room fiber management.
Your reader with experience using ribbon cable might offer two objections at this stage. The very first objection is definitely the price of mass fusion splicing equipment, and the second objection will be the painful and messy procedure for prepping large fiber count unitube ribbon cables. The very first objection is readily overcome by simply checking out the current prices of mass fusion splicers. Over the past few years, the price difference between single-fiber and ribbon-fiber splicing equipment has decreased dramatically. Another objection is overcome through the roll-out of all-dry optical cable products. Older ribbon cable products were painful to prep due to infamous “icky-pick” gel accustomed to provide water-blocking. The unitube style of many ribbon cable products translated into an excess of gel as well as a general mess to the splicing technician. However, new technologies allow both conventional loose tube and ribbon products to fulfill stringent water-blocking standards with no gels whatsoever. This dramatically reduces the cable prep time when splicing for product families. However, the basic model of ribbon cables ensures 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 best point for conversion to ribbon cables typically occurs at 96 to 144 fibers based on the labor rates used for economic modeling. For the reason that range of fiber counts, any incremental cost distinction between ribbon and loose fiber configurations will probably be offset by savings in splicing costs and installation time. For fiber counts comparable to and more than 144, the carrier would require a compelling reason not to deploy ribbon cables given the reduced price of splicing and very comparable material costs.
Splicing costs vary tremendously based on the local labor market. Typically, however, single-fiber fusion splicing pricing is somewhere between $23 and $35 per-splice with a national level for standard outside-plant cable. For cost comparison purposes, we are going to split the main difference and think that we should pay $28 per-splice whenever we sub-contract or outsource single-fiber splicing. Once we outsource ribbon-fiber splicing, we are going to believe that each 12 fiber ribbon splice costs us $120. Ribbon-splicing costs also vary tremendously dependant upon the local labor market, but the $120 number is probably from the high-average range.
So, in relation to those assumed splice costs, a standard loose-tube cable splice will surely cost us $4,032.00 with the 144 fiber count (144 single fibers x $28 per-splice) whereas the comparable ribbon cable splicing costs will probably be $1,440.00 (twelve 12-fiber ribbons x $120 per-splice). This provides us an absolute savings of $2,592.00 in splicing costs at every splice location. In the event the 144 fiber ribbon cable costs the same or less than the comparable loose-tube cable, then the case for ribbon at this fiber count and higher is the proverbial “no-brainer.” Whenever a ribbon cable is offered that will perform the job in this scenario, there is very little reason to take into account the alternative.
The truth for ribbon versus loose-tube optical cable is less compelling at lower fiber counts. For example, when you use those same per-splice costs inside a 96 fiber count scenario, the ribbon cable saves us $1,728.00 each and every splice location. However, the financial benefit afforded from the splicing might be offset by higher cable price. Additionally, dexkpky80 variety of splice locations can differ greatly from one application to another. Within a typical utility application, however, 96 fiber configurations represent the stage where cable costs and splicing costs usually break even when comparing ribbon to loose tube.
The economics of fiber counts notwithstanding, you will still find several locations where either ribbon or loose-tube may be the preferred option. By way of example, it will require four splices to fix a 48 fiber count ribbon cable compared to 48 splices to the loose-tube equivalent. On certain critical circuits, therefore, it will be desirable to have SZ stranding line just because of the 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 your cable for splicing using mid-sheath access techniques. In those instances, ribbon might be viable with new “splittable” ribbon technologies, but could be less practical for a few 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 using some gels, but any utility company installing fiber optic cable in any other application ought to be leaving the gel-remover back into the shop. “Icky-pick” in conventional ribbon and loose-tube cables can be a relic of the 90’s along with an accessory for labor hours which may be easily avoided.
To sum it, there is certainly not really a single network design that suits all applications, rather than just one 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. Each of the alternatives are field-proven and have been in existence for several years. Utilities can leverage some great benefits of these different solutions just by remembering exactly what is available, and applying a little bit basic math to compare cable costs, splicing costs, and labor hours.