Roll With It, Baby!

Colorful drawing of intertwining wires

By Mark Boxer

3 Applications That Beg Providers to Roll Their Fiber —

A rollable ribbon is a fiber optic ribbon that can be rolled into a tight cylinder, in contrast to a classic flat ribbon, which is designed to stay flat while in the cable and during splicing.

Figure 1. Rollable ribbon enables higher density cables.

Where a flat ribbon is connected by matrix material between fibers down the entire length, the fibers in a rollable ribbon are connected only at regularly spaced points down the length of the fiber, which makes it more flexible and “rollable”. (See Figure 1.) This design allows the fibers to be spliced using ribbon splicing techniques and equipment.

Rollable ribbon cables can double the fiber density for a typical duct compared to flat ribbons, enabling thousands of fibers to go into spaces that were previously too small, while enabling mass fusion splicing.

Service providers are facing unprecedented demand due to increased bandwidth requirements, both from the launch of 5G cellular service as well as the response to COVID-19.1

In addition, duct space is at a premium, especially in dense metro areas, so enabling more fibers in less space is even more important in those scenarios.

Much more attention is now being paid to the rural/urban digital divide, and fiber density may even help in some rural and underserved areas. Many of these areas have older poles with potential sag and tension limitations. Although this case is not quite as clear as the metro case, there still can be value to having more fibers in less space.

What telecom providers need to know to deploy the right fiber across a multitude of different network applications.

Originally published on September 1, 2020