Monday, January 16, 2017

Standing Out in the Crowd

2016 was another turbulent year within the telecommunications industry. Increasingly fierce competition, strategic mergers and acquisitions, and continued investment in broadband infrastructure from traditional wireline and wireless carriers alike, contributed to the growth of this sector.

How a company differentiates itself—while strengthening revenue and margins—remains a constant challenge. A growing trend is to deliver a more personalized, consistent customer experience to meet the ever-demanding consumer needs. This means having a strategy in place that’s easy, effective, and repeatable for the consumer. With 89% of consumers willing to switch providers as a result of a poor experience, according to Forrester Research, providing this kind of value is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity.

Exacerbating this issue is that broadband speeds have now become simply a commodity. It’s not enough for carriers to simply sell the value-add of more megabits and greater speeds. Most carriers can match each other bit for bit, network for network, and fiber for fiber.
 
At Comstar Supply, we are putting this idea of customer care to work for our customers. We play a strategic role in our customer’s business by emphasizing communication, which enables an information exchange on new products, trends, industry news and other important information impacting customers. We emphasize response times and project support—working together with customers to ensure on-time delivery and order accuracy. And we’ve made recent investments into both systems and personnel to help manage and deliver on our promise of 100% customer satisfaction.

Who would you rather work with? A company that’s been doing business the same old way for decades? Or a company that thinks about your distribution and logistics in a whole new way? Put Comstar Supply to work for you today. Contact us today to learn more.

Fiber Splicing: Fusion Vs. Mechanical - The Rematch



As a means of keeping touch with our sales force, we adopted what is known at Comstar as the Brice Box. That box is chock full of good information on our products and suppliers. This blog is the first in a series of topics that are born from material in our Brice Box.

The cost of fiber optic fusion splicing machines dropped over 50% in the last five years. That leaves me wondering, why would anyone still use mechanical fiber splices? With factory polished connectors and low cost fusion splicing, there are more high quality, affordable options than ever for mating two pieces of fiber.

It’s no secret that fusion splicing has a higher up front cost, but a lower cost per splice when
compared to mechanical splicing. What you may not know is the new prices of fusion splicers have significantly reduced the upfront cost of fusion splicing. By the time you have used 300-500 mechanical splices at $10 apiece, you could have purchased a handheld fusion splicer kit. Below are examples of the upfront cost for the various methods of joining fiber.

Mechanical Splice Kit
Mechanical Fiber Connector Kit w/ Cleaver
Mechanical Splice Kit w/ Cleaver
Fixed V-Groove Splicer w/ Cleaver
Core Alignment Splicer Kit
$350
$1200
$1300
$3500+
$9000+
https://www.aflglobal.com/getattachment/242b8305-de14-4c1c-8952-f5f71eb8d11c/SpliceConnect-Mechanical-Splice.aspx;;
Mechanical Fiber Splice

You might say, "I doubt I will do more than 100 splices this year. Why should I pay $3500 for fusion equipment I will hardly use?" I could spit figures at you about the proliferation of fiber and watch your eyes glaze over. After all, this ever-connected world needs to run on fiber. Feed the fiber monsters! You know them: Big Data, FTTP, LTE and IoT!

However, I will not bore you with statistics ripped from the latest industry infographic. There are far better reasons for justifying the purchase of a $3500 machine for 100 splices in a year. The quality and durability of a fusion splice are far superior to a mechanical splice.

Since a mechanical splice are two fiber ends clamped in a body, mated in index matching gel, the fibers could be pulled out of the splice. In contrast, the fusion splicing machine creates an arc that fuses the two ends of the fiber to make them a single strand. Fusion splices have excellent tensile properties, and are reinforced against lateral forces with steel or ceramic strength members.

A fusion splice touts much higher performance than a mechanical splice. Below are values that compare not only splices, but values from current field-installable mechanical fiber connectors. I’m showing connector values since the skills required to complete a field-installable connector are essentially the same as mechanical splicing. If the loss values of a mechanical splice are acceptable, why not have the added convenience of a point of connectivity if located inside an enclosure? Granted, you will need to terminate both ends of the fiber you are joining in a bulkhead, but there are other benefits to field-installable mechanical connectors.

With simple tools, you can instantly verify the quality of the mechanical connector installation. Whereas validation of a mechanical splice requires an OTDR trace or Optical Power Meter reading on the span to confirm the quality of splice.


Typical Insertion Loss
Typical Back Reflectance
Typical Cost
Mechanical Splice
0.2 dB – 0.75 dB
<-40 dB / <-60 dB Angle Polish
$10 - $30
Fusion Splice
<0.1
None on a successful splice
$0.35 - $0.50
Factory Polish, Field-Installable Connector
0.35 dB
<-50dB / <-60 Angle Polish
$10 - $15

Modern fusion splicers are also automated with instant verification of the quality of splice performed. It’s not as accurate as a full OTDR trace would be, but it is an excellent indication of how well the machine is operating with the fibers being spliced. Most machines have on board instructions and diagnostics to assist the user with operation and maintenance.

There is yet another feather in the cap of ownership of a fusion splicing machine. The major suppliers of fusion splicers have 24/7, 365 support lines. If something goes wrong with your unit in the middle of a network outage in a snowstorm, they are there to help. They understand that fiber networks are the lifeblood of communications today, so the support they offer is what you wish you had from the DMV or appliance center.

At Comstar Supply, we support all of the major fusion splicer manufacturers, and we are ready to help you with any questions you may have. Before you splice that next fiber, let’s take some time to look at the different options available today. I’m sure you’ll be glad we did.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Resolutions for the New Year

It's that time of year again. The new year offers a chance to examine habits and make any changes that could increase productivity, improve relationships or generally make our lives better in 2017. This is not only true for our personal lives, but our business lives and careers as well.
  1. Scrutinize Your Strategic Distribution Partnerships
    Managing strategic partnerships is complex given each department within your organization has different goals, objectives, and a myriad suppliers and partners. Specific to infrastructure construction and the role of a distributor, selecting the right partner is critical to the support of your business.

    Having the right distribution partner and working with them to play a more critical role in the planning and delivery of outside plant materials can be a true differentiator for your company. If you are not getting these results today, it might be time to look elsewhere.
  2. Start Planning for Your Next Procurement Now
    It’s important to recognize the strategic role distributors can play. The relationship between distributor/customer should be equally beneficial, with mutual sharing of information. These types of conversations enable continuous value exchange and are often the most critical step of engagement.

    Whether it’s allocating fiber connectivity during turbulent production times or stocking critical hardware that can be drop-shipped on a moment’s notice, strategic conversations between a business and a distributor ensure adequate stock and timely delivery of outside plant materials.
  3. Communicate More, Not Less
    The relationship between distributor and customer should include sharing from each respective field of expertise. What drives consumer demand versus the mitigating factors in fiber production are often two very different conversations. Compelling business factors from both the distributor and customer should be communicated appropriately for crucial support of each other’s respective business goals.
The best and easiest resolutions are kept when you have help from others. Comstar Supply is here to help you keep your resolutions by providing the critical conversations you need to build your business for success in 2017.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bandwidth Growth Driving Network Deployments

Consumer and business customer demand for high speed bandwidth has never been greater. From federally-funded projects to small cell buildouts, telecom network infrastructure improvements have become an arm’s race for technology organizations.

In addition, key telcos and other providers recently announced ambitious network expansion plans. According to a recent article from Fierce Telecom, AT&T and CenturyLink have set some ambitious targets for their FTTH deployments.

“During the second quarter, AT&T had only 2.2 million homes passed with fiber, a figure the telco expects to ramp to 2.6 million by the end of 2016. AT&T will need to build fiber to an additional 9.9 million homes by 2019, illustrating an acceleration in its overall network investment.”

“CenturyLink expects to reach 11 million premises at 40 Mbps or higher, including 2 million GPON-enabled addressable households and businesses, by year-end 2017. Looking toward 2019, CenturyLink forecasts that 11 million of its addressable broadband-enabled units will be able to access 100 Mbps or higher speeds.”

With this demand, carriers will not only need to have adequate access to outside plant materials and equipment. Comstar Supply has built an extensive OSP inventory from industry-leading suppliers to help carriers and contractors deliver high-speed broadband and power networks.

Fiber Splice Trailer at Comstar City


For instance, Comstar not only can supply a splice truck, but help customers fully equip it with the necessary tools and equipment for less than other distributors. From a fiber splicing tool kit, to splicer, test sets, cleaning supplies and other essentials, we have you covered. To start equipping your teams, visit the Fiber Splice Trailer at Comstar City.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Faster FTTH Deployment at Lower Costs

FTTH Underground at Comstar City
Fiber indexing is a novel approach to FTTH network design. CommScope’s pre-connectorized plug-and-play solution allows engineers to:
  • Deploy fiber up to 75% faster
  • Reduce the amount of cable required by up to 70%
  • Eliminate the need for fiber splicing
How? By changing from a star to a daisy-chain topology for connecting service terminals, and consolidating functionality into the service terminal. By using hardened service terminals with hardened multi-fiber connectors, this architecture combines the advantages of a daisy chain-topology with plug-and-play connectivity.
To learn more, download the white paper from one of our suppliers – TE Connectivity – for a detailed guide on fiber indexing. To order your FTTH products, visit us at www.comstarsupply.com

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fast Facts on Fiber Distribution for FTTx

FDH 4000 (front, open)
No space, no permit is no problem with Commscope’s Sealed Fiber Distribution Hub FDH 4000.
The sealed fiber distribution hub (FDH) 4000 is designed for superior performance in any environment. Its small, compact size minimizes visual impact for discrete applications. Leveraging Commscope’s proven hardened fiber optic closure technology, the sealed FDH offers a robust, technician-friendly and cost-effective solution for connecting feeder and distribution cables in the FTTx network.
Specific benefits include:
  • Ideal for low profile / discreet deployments
  • Leverages proven sealing technology of TE’s FOSC
  • Plug-and-play design for fast service turn ups
  • 144 distribution ports / 9 splitter slots / point-to-point configurable
  • Re-enterable
For more information on this and other products Comstar Supply stocks and supports, please visit www.comstarsupply.com.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Last Fiber Frontier


The demand for increased bandwidth is driving fiber-based last mile connectivity to every business. It’s also having a trickle-down effect to consumers as the Internet of Things (IoT), video streaming services, online gaming, and other applications are moving network capacity to unprecedented speeds to the home.

Certainly, we’re all familiar with metro fiber builds between cities, within a city, or other special project builds such as connecting schools or multiple government offices. These network construction projects continue in earnest today. However, building fiber to the home is quickly gaining momentum as the last frontier for bandwidth. Specifically, initiatives such as Google Fiber and other high-bandwidth residential Internet start-ups are spurring new network growth.

In fact, according to a March 2016 article titled, “Fiber to the Home: Getting Beyond 10 Gb/s” from Optics & Photonics News:
 “…worldwide FTTx deployment passed 100 million connections in 2014, and rapid growth continues today. In the United States, FTTH implementation has lagged relative to Asia; nonetheless, more than 100 cities are now connected with gigabit-capable broadband networks through Google Fiber and competing initiatives, mostly with FTTH technologies.”
A myriad of products exists today for deployment of FTTH in both aerial and underground construction methods. Comstar Supply’s wide product range includes everything from Passive Optical Network (PON) connectivity to the attachment hardware. In the rapidly changing FTTx environment, it’s imperative to pay attention to innovations in the market— especially if you’re new to FTTH deployment. Visit www.comstarsupply.com to learn more about products we stock and support.