Fiber gets flexible as crews learn to splice at cell sites

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Tower technicians may not yet be as comfortable with fiber as they are with cable, but as subscribers demand more and more from their networks, it is clear that fiber is the future. “The numbers speak for themselves as we talk about the move to LTE and the move to smartphones,” said Steve Shaw, director of mobile solutions marketing at Juniper Networks. “Rolling out fiber in the access network and actually stringing fiber directly to the cell site has become quite common for operators making this transition to LTE.”

“In the past everyone always thought fiber was so delicate,” said Omar Flores, global business development manager for 3M’s wireless access division. But 3M believes that will change, and the company is encouraging its customers to splice fiber at the cell site in order to customize their installations.

“3M is a big, big proponent of bringing field mounted connectivity,” said Flores. “3M has been providing splicing technologies for fiber and copper connectivity in the wireline side of the business, so it just came naturally for us to bring those technologies into the wireless side.”

Flores believes that crews can save time and money by splicing fiber just as they cut cable. “[With] coax you used to bring a big reel of cable and in the field you used to measure and then cut to length, add connectors and you are done. Fiber is not done that way nowadays. Most of the applications are custom applications so you need to go do a field visit, measure then go back, request the right size and then bring it again and then do the connection. So we believe that with our technology that … with very low training you can do exactly the same, just bring your reel of fiber, cut to length at the site, install the connectivity and you’re ready to go.”

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Martha DeGrasse

Editor, Wireless Infrastructure
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Martha DeGrasse is an editor at RCR Wireless News, and is the creator of the RCR Mobile Minute. Martha has been with RCR Wireless News since 2011. Her current focus areas are wireless infrastructure and heterogeneous networks. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York. Martha left Dow Jones to move to Austin, Texas, where she managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Follow her at Twitter @mdegrasseRCR