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FTTH Deployments Splitters: Centralized Splitting vs Distributed Splitting Jun 27, 2017

With the rapid development of optical fiber communications, FTTH (fiber to the home) project has been gradually introduced into more remote rural areas. In order to bring service to these rural areas, there are two fiber distribution plant architecture options available: distributed splitting and centralized splitting. So which one is the best way of deploying fiber to the home in rural areas? This tutorial will compare two these two splitter-based fiber distribution architectures and give the answer.

Centralized and Distributed Splitting Overview

Splitter-based FTTx architectures are basic deployments of passive optical network (PON). Instead of running fiber from the central office (CO) to every home like in a P2P (point to point) arrangement, which is extremely expensive, splitter-based architectures run a single fiber from the central office out to a central distribution point in the network, and via an optical splitter from that point individual fibers are run to each subscriber location, which is usually called point to multi-point (P2MP).

Centralized Splitting

As shown in Figure 1A, in centralized splitting architecture, feeder fibers are run to a cabinet near the neighborhood to be served. Each feeder fiber terminates on a 1x32 optical splitter in the cabinet, which can in turn connect to up to 32 distribution fibers. Typically, the cabinet also provides for managing the fiber cables, splicing the individual fibers and for terminating the distribution fibers on the splitter ports through an interconnect panel. This architecture provides a splitter port and a dedicated fiber for every subscriber location in the serving area.

Distributed Splitting

Alternatively, instead of a centralized splitting implementation (as shown in Figure 1A), multiple smaller splitters, 1:4 and 1:8, for example, can be distributed within the plant (as shown in Figure 1B). This reduces the requirements for the splitter cabinet, but it also eliminates the original benefits of the splitter-based approach–removes the dedicated fibers from each subscriber back to a centralized point, eliminates the advantage of having all the interconnections at a single point, and increases the network complexity without the benefit of reducing fiber count.

Distributed Splitting Minimizes Fiber Cable Sizes

FTTH splitter-based architecture is a compromise between cost and the flexibility of running fiber to every subscriber location. In a sparsely populated rural area, it makes sense to move the splitter as close to the home as possible to minimize the lengths of the 32 output fibers and maximize the length of the single input fiber. The graph below compares the cost of a 1 x 32 splitter and cable with the cost of a 1 x 4 splitters feeding four 1 x 8 splittersand cable. Although both options provide 32 outputs, they use different split techniques to reduce cable size.If 32 customers live within about 5,000 feet of one another, the 1 x 32 splitter is most economical. If, as in rural areas, the 32 customers are spread out over more than 5,000 feet (or 1 mile), the cable cost saving offsets the additional splitter cost and the 1 x 4/1 x 8 option becomes more economical. The farther apart customers are, the more economical the 1 x 4/1 x 8 option becomes.

Distributed Splitting Enables More Efficient Splicing Management

Distributed splitting has additional economic benefits if the splitter is fusion spliced into the network at the outset. Fusion splicing offers several benefits over connectorization. It reduces optical loss and increases a network’s overall reliability by eliminating connectors and jumpers that can cause problems. In addition, fusion splicing the splitter initially reduces installation time because the installer does not have to visit the splitter location. Finally, connectorized drops are often infeasible in rural areas because houses are often far from the road. This method creates no more splicing than placing splitters in cabinets or in the CO, as cabinet inputs and outputs must also be spliced initially.

Several fiber architectures have been developed to support FTTx deployments. While centralized splitter based architectures are suitable for dense urban or even suburban environments, they are not optimal for rural broadband networks. A major benefit of the distributed splitting architecture is the significant reduction in fiber that is required to serve a rural area. Moving the splitters close to homes in rural areas makes sense economically and operationally.

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