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Roll out the fibre …

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Kathy Gibson reports from SATNAC 2015 – This year (2015) is the year of light – and light is a critical element for modern communications.
This is according to Christoph Glingener, chief technology officer and chief operating officer of ADVA Optical Networking, speaking at the South African Telecommunications, Networking and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Hermanus today.
Light – or optical technology – is a critical component of all networks, he says, and it’s going to get more important.
Some of the mega-trends driving the industry today include virtualisation, over the top services, Industry 4.0, security, big data analytics, health and assisted living, smart cities, Internet of Things, Green communications, cloud computing, communication drones and the tactile Internet.
“They are all bandwidth drivers,” says Glingener, adding that fibre networks are going to become more important than ever as these trends become mainstream.
In the US, Google has pushed the market into accepting the need for fibre by launching its own fibre rings offering fibre to the home (FTTH). This promoted other players to quickly offer their own FTTH services.
The next challenge, says Glingener, will be networking the home once fibre lands, and optical networking has a role to play here as well.
The mobility megatrend is perhaps responsible for the biggest growth in the need for fast networks, he adds.
“Things like connected cars means you want seven-nines of availability and good security across the whole network. Optical is the only technology that will do this.”
In the future, Glingener believes the whole network will have to be optical.
“So how much light is there?” he asks. Interestingly, the best growth will be seen in emerging markets – although South Africa is still not above the 1% penetration mark.
In Asia Pacific, on the other hand, growth rates of 35% and more are seen in fibre penetration.
For South Africa to achieve its broadband penetration plans, fibre is going to be key, Glingener adds. And it’s going to be expensive, he says, unless there is widespread network sharing and open access.
Should Telkom achieve its goal of 1-million FTTH installations, it will put South Africa well on to the world map, he points out.
Glingener explains that Internet traffic is due to double every 18 months – but fibre capacity only doubles every five years, and it is possibly slowing down.
“So fibre will be a limited resource,” he says. “So capacity in general is going to become a very rare commodity.
“For sure, people will be charged for bits; because they will be rare.
“The bottom line is that you need fibre for everything that is coming; and there isn’t enough light. Fibre could change the world, and Africa is leading the way.”