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Ribbon cables were first introduced about two decades ago. They were originally embraced by carriers deploying large-count feeder cables looking to maximize density and minimize splicing time. An added benefit was the ability to more easily manage the growing demand for bandwidth.

That growing demand is indeed here today as ubiquitous broadband connectivity is now required to support work from anywhere (WFA), remote learning, and telehealth services, and many other important bandwidth-hungry applications.

We’ve seen major advancements in ribbon cable design over the past several years. Pricing has decreased considerably, and splice crews have developed a preference for ribbon cables. For these reasons, and many more, the rise of ribbon cable is upon us.

The Benefits of Ribbon Cable

Ribbon cable innovations continue to drive up the number of fibers housed within a cable sheath. Corning now offers a 3,456-fiber ribbon cable. However, the value of ribbon cables can also be realized at much lower fiber counts. Indeed, ribbon cable should be considered in any fiber network planning and deployment strategy.

Key benefits of ribbon cable include:

  • Efficiency and Cost Savings. It’s less time consuming to splice ribbon cables, resulting in a reduction of overall installation time and labor cost. On average, ribbon splicing is about six times faster than loose tube fiber splicing and can result in a 60% reduction in splicing costs.
  • Better Solution for Congested Pathways. CSPs can better leverage existing conduits and ducts for future fiber expansion by utilizing ribbon cables. The small footprint of these cables helps alleviate congested pathways and conduits.
  • More Closure Flexibility. Ribbon cables are versatile and can be applied in the same closures as loose tube cables using a ribbon splice tray.
  • Reduction of Splicing Error Rates. With a 144-fiber cable, a ribbon cable only needs 12 fiber fuses – dramatically lowering the possibility of an error.
  • Quicker Time to Restoration. Fiber cuts and the disruption they cause to customers can be catastrophic, particularly for business and wholesale customers. With ribbon fiber, CSPs can restore service significantly faster to mitigate revenue loss and improve the customer experience.
  • Quicker Time to Market. The time savings for using ribbon cables over loose tube cables is tangible. That time savings directly contributes to a quicker time to market for CSPs, helping better achieve business plan and ROI objectives.

Adding ribbon cables to an overall fiber network strategy allows CSPs to capitalize on current and future market factors, while reducing the number of splicing resources required.

Plan with the Future in Mind

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for increased bandwidth. These “new normal” trends will accelerate the need for more fiber. One Wall Street research firm predicts the trends driven by the pandemic will drive subscribers to eventually abandon technologies like DSL in favor of FTTP.

“The pressures on broadband networks laid bare by the coronavirus crisis make it clear that market share will now migrate even faster in this large cohort,” MoffetNathanson researchers argue. “As with legacy DSL, it is increasingly clear that this segment is simply not competitive anymore.”

To keep up, CSPs will have to build fiber networks quickly. It’s also smart to build those networks with the added capacity needed to address future demand. The winning position for any CSP is to have more than enough fiber, rather than not enough.

Adding ribbon cables to an overall fiber network strategy allows CSPs to capitalize on current and future market factors, while reducing the number of splicing resources required. They’ll be more prepared to meet future bandwidth demands, with the ability to efficiently tap and turn up fiber capacity when needed.

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