Enersource Telecom Ltd. has one use for copper — pulling fibre. The Mississauga, Ont.-based telecommunications company uses copper wire for pulling optical fibre into place, but its network is entirely fibre.
One of a number of utility telecom companies — subsidiaries of electrical utilities
that take advantage of their rights of way to offer high-speed communications services mostly to business customers — Enersource Telecom has had an all-fibre network for about three years.
The company offers its business customers services such as voice and video over Internet Protocol (IP) and handles large-scale data backups between sites. For services like this, says Brad Randall, general manager at Enersource Telecom, “”the only way you get the bandwidth realistically is over fibre.””
Ernie Vidovic, the company’s construction and implementation manager, adds that an all-fibre network gives Enersource Telecom lots of headroom to add new technology in the future. “”Once your network’s built, you can almost add on or adapt to anything.”” The inherent security of fibre is another plus, and he likes its immunity to electromagnetic interference. “”There’s no worries about lightning or anything else,”” he says.
Fibre is also tolerant of temperature extremes — it’s good from minus 40 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, Vidovic points out – and its light weight makes it easier to work with than bulky copper cables. One 12-pair fibre cable, three eighths of an inch in diameter, provides the same capacity as 900 copper pairs, which is a huge bundle of wire.
“”You can easily pull a 12-conductor fibre up a riser as opposed to multiple pairs of copper, which is limited by distance,”” says Vidovic.
Enersource Telecom can run fibre to a specific office suite. Randall says some customers have shown interest in extending the fibre right to individual desktops, but the idea hasn’t really caught on yet, probably due largely to the rewiring it would involve in existing facilities. But interest is building. “”I would suggest the only limitation these people have is their own fears of new technology,”” Vidovic observes.
Installing fibre hasn’t always been easy. The development of fusion splicing has helped tremendously, Randall says. “”Before that, it was almost an art.”” With fusion splicing, splices can be done easily in the field, in a truck, and “”we’re getting incredibly (fewer) losses because of the new technology.””
Installing fibre still requires some expertise, Vidovic says, but Enersource Telecom has never had a problem finding people with the know-how.
As for the cost of fibre, Randall says it is hard for him to make a comparison to copper because his company doesn’t use it, but the cost of fibre has dropped by about two thirds in the past couple of years. The price has gone from about $20 per metre in 1996 to around $5 per metre for 96-strand cable today, he says. “”Fibre itself has come down to where it’s become attractive to install more and more of that infrastructure.””