‘You’re assuming fiber is there:’ The less-talked about roles of fiber in 5G networks

FiberLight exec: Industry is ‘too consumed with fiber to the tower’

For the last three decades, the demand for mobile data has grown exponentially, driving tremendous capacity expansions and the need for more network infrastructure, especially as 5G networks continue to rollout. FiberLight’s Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer Marc Dyman told RCR Wireless News that these increasing network density requirements in a 5G era mean, “by nature,” that there will be more fiber requirements, even as the industry continues to downplay fiber’s role in our wireless future.

“The ability to get high-capacity fiber is going to be driven by the speed of 5G. As 5G drives higher speed to the end user, it is going to also drive more fiber requirements,” he said. “Because of the topology changes [in 5G], mostly on the fronthaul side, we’re initially seeing a lot of requirements for dark fiber. Not to say that lit is totally off the table, but MNOs are saying ‘give us the dark fiber, we’ll put our own equipment on it.’”

The preference for dark, or currently unused fiber infrastructure, comes from operators’ need to be able to scale and control the fiber within their networks.

Dyman also weighed in on “the elephant in the room,” by which he meant the ways in which wireless operators are being served by those who already have fiber in place, but are now their competitors, a.k.a the cable companies.

Cable companies, said Dyman, had a very “guarded approach” to how they were enabling the Carrier Ethernet boom, which began in the early 2000’s and saw wireless operators increasingly using fiber for backhaul.

“They knew 5G was coming and how it was a threat to their cable company,” he stated, adding that this created an opportunity for FiberLight to come in as a neutral party.

Beyond acting as a neutral party for 5G evolution, FiberLight is also very focused on building fiber “in and out of data centers,” which Dyman said are critical end points for “anybody that operates a network.”

“One of the newer MNOs that is entering on a nationwide basis is adopting a new architecture that is more putting their aggregation points in data centers. We’re also seeing all of the wireless ISPs aggregating out of these data centers, so I think that fiber needs to get back to a data center,” he elaborated. “Whether it’s dumping off your IP traffic or voice traffic, trying to optimize your IP or getting to cloud destinations, being able to have the fiber necessary to transport that is not often thought about.”

The industry is too consumed with “fiber to the tower,” he argued, but should also be looking at the networks that are “further back from a transport standpoint.”

When it comes to why fiber is often overlooked in 5G headlines and during 5G keynotes at conferences, Dyman offered, “Because in a legacy network [fiber]assumed that it’s going to be there. It gets pushed to the bottom of the list because it’s a required building block.”

“You’re assuming fiber is there,” he added.

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