Feature Article

February 10, 2014

TE Connectivity Powered Fiber Cable System Speeds Small Cell Deployment and Improves 4G coverage

As mobile network operators, cable companies and a host of others look for ways to provide customers high-performance broadband connectivity, the consensus is that ramping up small cell deployments is a key to satisfying exploding demand and create differentiated competitive advantage. The challenge is that small cell deployment is hard. From local zoning issues to managing networks with tens of thousands of new network elements to integration with existing infrastructure and services, not to mention regulatory and interoperability concerns, this is a brave new world for all involved.  This includes some very non-trivial basic plumbing concerns regarding installation and powering of these devices to assure optimal and reliable performance. 

Ahead of the massive Mobile World Forum even in Barcelona at the end of February, and TE in anticipation of what is sure to be intense interest in solutions that can ease the pain points of small cell deployment and operations, Minneapolis, MN-based TE Connectivity (TE) has introduced the powered fiber cable system, whose design criteria is to speed and simplify the installation, powering, and communication with small cells and other network access devices.

Maximizing small cell placement and operations

TE Connectivity is touting the powered fiber cable system for its capabilities, “To allow small cell devices to be placed exactly where they are needed for maximum 4G wireless coverage by combining power and optical fiber communications into one system.

The single system approach is important.  Included in it are the power supply, a hybrid cable and a remote powering unit that corrects for DC line loss to eliminate the need for electrical design calculations.

“Our customers have told us that installing small cells is complicated because power isn’t often readily available where the small cell is needed”

Advantages of the system cited by TE Connectivity for the powered fiber cable system include:

  • A reach greater than 10 times the distance of POE+ (Power over Ethernet) cables, giving operators the ability to optimize siting.  
  • The combination of power and fiber communications into one system means local powering is no longer needed—eliminating the complexity of determining how to obtain power from building owners, utility companies or municipalities. 
  • Estimates that this new system can reduce up-front planning and engineering time for many small cell deployments by 50 percent or more. Plus, the system is designed for low power DC transmission (NEC Class II) eliminating the need for highly-skilled electricians.
  • Installation simplification is achieved by having remote powering units factory terminated onto the hybrid cable with exactly the correct connectors for a given small cell. As TE points out, “To place a small cell exactly where it is needed, the customer simply plugs in the connector, mounts the remote powering unit, and installs the cable back to the power supply located up to 1km away.” The system is designed to act as a “long extension cord”.

“Our customers have told us that installing small cells is complicated because power isn’t often readily available where the small cell is needed,” says Mark Hesling, vice president of global product management at TE Connectivity. “Coordinating electricians in and out of buildings is expensive, and negotiating with building owners is complex. TE’s powered fiber cable systems will speed up deployment and lower installation costs of small cells and other network access devices.”

As noted at the top, finding a solution to the power issue for the placement of small cells, including the difficult issue of negotiating who will pay for powering the devices, has been more than a bit of a stumbling block in accelerating small cell deployments. This is going to be a high priority area of interest at Mobile World Congress, and as an attendee is something I am going to keep an eye on.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker


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