Optical fibres and Fiber to the home

1. What are optical fibres?

Optical fibres are very thin optical waveguides made from glass which can be used to transmit data in the form of pulses of light. Depending on requirements, optical fibre cables can be manufactured with 4, 16, 32, 48, 288, or even more fibres.

2. Why is the construction of optical fibre networks important?

Today, information is transmitted almost exclusively in digital form. The greater the transmission capacity of a data network, the faster and more reliable the transmission of all kinds of information (video, voice, internet) between information providers and information users. Optical fibre networks are ideally suited to meeting the increasing demand for transmission capacity (also known as bandwidth) in the long term.

3. Is it possible for a company to construct and operate an optical fibre network and offer their services to other companies using it?

Several layers of network development are required in order for an optical fibre network to become usable as a communications network for the services of third party providers. The lowest layer comprises purely passive elements: it primarily covers the cable ducts or the tube and the optical fibre cable with the fibres themselves. Only a single network operator can construct the second layer via a single fibre. Only when a network operator leases the active transport layer (the so-called layer 2) to other service providers can the service providers offer their services to end users. Only on the third network layer (layer 3) can the end user freely choose their service provider by entering an internet address.

4. Do all providers develop their own standards? Will I be able to change my provider without having to change the cabling and sockets in my house or flat?

Network operators have agreed upon a uniform domestic installation standard for the whole of Switzerland. The risk of a network operator using hardware other than that recommended is small. Even if there is a change of providers in the form of a change of network operator, the new provider will find transfer points and interfaces that enable a smooth changeover. It will be possible to continue to use all passive elements such as cabling, sockets and terminal boxes without modification.

5. The construction of optical fibre networks in cities is underway. What is the situation in the peripheral regions and smaller municipalities?

Experience shows that new technologies which require high investment in installations and equipment establish themselves first in densely populated conurbations with a high potential of new customers. Existing infrastructures generally meet the communications service requirements of the population and economy for many years. Only when technology has established itself on a broad base does the question arise – for purely commercial reasons if nothing else - as to whether it should be immediately and universally implemented. In Switzerland, peripheral regions and even small municipalities continue to have access to sufficient broadband service provision. This is mainly because many of these regions are also provided with cable networks, which will be able to meet this increasing bandwidth demand for a very long time. In addition, in contrast to most other states, the universal service in Switzerland includes broadband connections with a data transfer rate of at least 2000/200 kbit/s.

6. Can anyone construct an optical fibre network or is it necessary to have authorisation and/or a licence?

A comprehensive revision of the law ended the network monopoly in 1998. Companies providing telecommunications services for third parties must notify this to OFCOM. Any company seeking to invest can therefore undertake construction of optical fibre networks.

7. How many fibres are advisable?

A multi-fibre cable is advisable for a new domestic installation. The additional cost of a multi-fibre cable compared to a single-fibre cable within a single building is small. If several fibres are used at initial installation, this makes it possible for several network providers to simultaneously access the same domestic socket.

8. OFCOM has organised working groups in collaboration with industry. What are the goals?

During this early phase of optical fibre network construction there are issues which primarily concern the risk of technical incompatibility of the hardware used, in particular with regard to future interconnection of the networks and hardware of different network operators. The main point is the reuse of domestic installations in the case of a change in provider. The recommendations for a standard for domestic installations determined in conjunction with industry succeeded in achieving this goal of hardware compatibility.

Equally central to the discussion was the issue of transfer points (so-called PoPs – Point of Presence) for the interconnection of networks and services as well as the services provided on the transport network layer (layer 2) for service providers without their own network access infrastructure. Here, too, the goal was completed as successfully as possible with a specification of common interfaces and processes on the technical layer. The question remains open as to whether the recommendations determined in conjunction with industry and concerning network access using optical fibre technology will be implemented by all network operators.

9. What results are available from the working groups?

The available results from the working groups are published on the OFCOM website.

Specialist staff
Last modification 03.06.2015

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