A worldwide shortage of fibre-optic cable in 2022 has driven up prices and lengthened lead times, endangering telecom operators and data centre owners’ plans to deliver innovative technology solutions. While companies are still managing the consequences, they also need to increase their resiliency for future shortages. Here, Marcin Bala, CEO of telecommunication networks specialist Salumanus, explains how the telecom industry can deal with times of shortages.
Fibre optic cable is the backbone of modern networks and is crucial for the development of 5G infrastructures and future endeavours such as metaverse applications, quantum computing or 6G connectivity. The fibre optic cable shortage in 2022 put the idea of resiliency back on everyone’s agenda, as it posed serious questions for deploying these new technologies.
According to market research firm Cru Group, the shortage led to prices increasing in most parts of Europe, India, and China. Fibre prices have risen by up to 70 percent from record lows in March 2021, from $3.70 to $6.30 per fibre kilometre.
To ensure telecom operators stay protected against potential shortages, here are a few strategies they should implement.
Optimise inventory management
Planning for the long-term is the best solution to stay ahead of shortages. Companies should strengthen and lengthen their technology roadmaps. The more comprehensive the roadmap, the easier it is to plan ahead. Keeping track of stock in the cloud or using automated inventory systems will help operators with ordering in advance.
Supply chain diversification is another way to developing flexibility, minimise risk and increase agility. Operators should work with multiple suppliers, adding new international and local manufacturers to their supply line. This will make it easier to buy parts from different markets if their usual market is not available.
Dark fibre solutions
An often forgotten, but highly cost-effective solution for fibre shortages is to utilise so-called “dark fibre”. As a preventative measure, companies often overestimate the amount of cable needed for an application and install more cable than required. The remaining amount becomes unused or unlit, as there are no light pulses transmitted through it. Thanks to dark fibre, network operators can connect two locations through point-to-point connection and scale their network’s transmission capacity.
Regardless of whether a fibre pair is part of an operators own infrastructure or whether they have access to it based on a lease agreement, there are many advantages to using existing lines. Apart from mitigating crises, dark fibre also offers scalability and flexibility in the development of throughput, allowing operators to expand their network when and if they need to. This also gives users full independence and control of the network development.
Salumanus has recently helped an internet provider build a network backbone using leased dark fibre and a wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) system. The new infrastructure allowed the customer to run services with a total bandwidth of up to 25 terabytes, without increasing operating costs (fiber renting cost). In a time of crisis, the dark fibre will help the customer maintain uninterrupted connectivity, without the downtime necessary to install new fibre.
Similarly, dark fibre offers almost unlimited bandwidth and eliminates common public network elements, thus making the network more secure especially for big organisations in critical sectors.
Instead of paying for new cable at inflated rates, telco operators can take advantage of their already laid cable and future-proof themselves from potential crises.
When crises hit, operators need to evaluate their resources and plan wisely for dealing with demand. Preparing their inventory stocks in advance, multisourcing suppliers and tapping into the potential of smart technology will help operators navigate shortages more easily. Taking advantage of already existing dark fibre will also allow them to continue their work without downtime.
At Salumanus, we have developed a wide range of solutions to help users make the most of their dark fibre. To find out more about our technologies, visit www.salumanus.com.