The next generation of wireless telecommunications is set to transform the way we live and work. 5G networks promise higher speeds, lower latency and greater capacity is available with the current 4G system. In an often-repeated example, it will only take 3.6 seconds to download a two-hour movie compared with the current 6 minutes using the 4G network.
5G networks are expected to unlock the potential for new applications. Sensors can be accommodated as can the responsiveness necessary for advanced IoT applications such as robotics and autonomous vehicles. Combined with edge computing, data analytics and machine learning, many believe that 5G will generate new business opportunities.
Backhaul fibre support
Backhaul support provided by fibre cables is an essential element for mobile broadband networks. According to the consultancy firm Deloitte, wireline broadband access supports up to 90% of all Internet traffic despite the fact that the majority of the traffic ends on a wireless device.
As the demand for mobile data expands, backhaul capacity must increase accordingly. And, in the case of 5G networks, the reliance on wireline broadband will be extensive. As noted by Deloitte, “unlocking the full potential of 5G rests on a key assumption: the extension of fibre deep into the network”.
The physical properties of fibre optics permit the transmission of data over long distances, with greater security and at higher data rates compared with traditional copper cables. And because they are immune to electromagnetic interferences, fibre optics can be used in various environments safely, including those with high radiation, without altering the transmission.
As new fibre networks are installed for 5G or existing networks maintained, service providers will need to ensure that the fibre networks are cleaned and any contamination removed. This is essential to ensure network performance and reliability.
For example, connections and splices must be kept clean to avoid such problems as weakened signal, back reflection – when the signal is diverted back to its source – or a system shutdown. A contaminated connector or splice can block the light through the fibre and thus change the path of the signal or the index of refraction.
Given that 5G networks operate on higher frequency ranges compared to other mobile networks, they are more sensitive to the angle of refraction. Contamination can easily become a vulnerability.
The IEC published IEC 61300-3-35 which provides methods for assessing the quality of fibre optic connectors in each of the different zones of the fibre cable. For example, the core of the fiber, where the signal travels through, has the most stringent quality requirements.
Using IEC 61300-3-35 for measurement and inspection is considered an essential element for determining the performance of a fibre network.
Standardizing fibre optics
International standards provide safety and performance assurances. They establish minimum requirements for systems, devices and components to ensure product functionality across various manufacturers and provide test methods to evaluate performance and durability.
IEC Technical Committee 86 prepares international standards for fibre optic systems, modules, devices and components intended for use with communications equipment. Its subcommittee on fibre optic interconnecting devices and passive components, IEC SC 86B, developed IEC 61300-3-35