Alcatel raises fibre stakes with single-mode offering

Taking centre stage in the fibre market whilst competition dwindles, Alcatel SA has developed a new fibre that has one self-proclaimed skeptic impressed.

Paris-based Alcatel last month released its enhanced single-mode fibre (E-SMF), which will reduce the high costs for network operators by adding an estimated one-third more wavelengths to the usable spectrum, according to Alcatel. The fibre will also extend transmission reach by 50 per cent.

This release, according to Yankee Group Senior Analyst Marion Stasney, raises the bar in terms of fibre to come.

“(Alcatel) has opened up windows that are currently unavailable,” Stasney said. “Basically, in a nutshell, if what they say is true, and I have no reason not to believe that it is. What they have done is open up more regions for fibre, as much as 100GHz, which is pretty nominal for dense wave division multiplexing. Basically they have given us more to work with.”

Alcatel has focused its efforts on improving its fibre in two major areas. According to Jim Ryan, optical fibre product manager for Alcatel, the E-SMF reduces attenuation (signal loss) in all bands, thereby enabling means for additional bandwidth on the E-SMF and the ability to span longer distances without the need of signal regeneration. The E-SMF also improves the polarization mode dispersion (PMD), which can cause transmissions to arrive at different times. PMD occurs naturally in fibre due to the lack of perfect symmetry in the fibre and also from added external pressures on the cable.

“E-SMF rounds out Alcatel’s portfolio of fibres providing advanced, tailored solutions to each part of the network,” Ryan said. “Other fibre manufacturers also have products that are similar to E-SMF in that the attenuation is lower in the 1383 nanometre region than their basic standard single-mode offering. E-SMF combines the reduced attenuation with other system-related improvements, such as PMD performance, to further enhance its contribution to network operation.”

Ryan noted that E-SMF reduces network operation costs by increasing the usable distance of transmissions and adding about 30 per cent additional bandwidth to a given fibre. He said that improving usable transmission distance can reduce the number of amplifiers and/or signal regeneration devices needed within a network.

“The additional bandwidth allows more traffic to be sent on a given fibre before lighting or installing others,” he said.

Although the product is not being marketed for metropolitan area networks, the Yankee Group’s Stasney said that E-SMF is an ideal choice for that market deployment.

“Long-haul (network deployment) is being slowed temporarily until metro catches up, but metro has got to catch up,” Stasney said. “The optimum operating distance for this fibre is 80 kilometres. It is ideal for metro. Most metro rings are under 100 kilometres.”

Stasney noted that Alcatel is now in a position to claim market leadership as one of its main competitors has dropped out of the race. Lucent Technologies recently announced that it has completed the sale of its optical fibre solutions business to Japan-based Furukawa Electric.

“A lot of the carriers I have talked to want a company that is global like Alcatel,” Stasney said. “The thing about Alcatel is that they are one of the best-kept secrets in the world. The general public and the people now coming into the field don’t know what a great story they have to tell. I think this is a pretty good one and I am pretty skeptical when it comes to fibre.”