The life expectancy of fibre

The life expectancy of fibre

Summary: Armidale might be live, but for how long? Will the fibre need replacing in 20 to 25 years?

TOPICS: Broadband, Telcos, NBN

Armidale might be live, but for how long? Will the fibre need replacing in 20 to 25 years?

No, is the short answer. Despite NBN detractors claiming that fibre lasts only a couple of decades, people building networks are working on 40 years as a minimum, and some are expecting it to last 100.

This week on Twisted Wire, we look at the life expectancy of the cable and the technologies used to run across it. Listen in to hear how network planners ensure that they get maximum life from the fibre itself and future-proof network design to accommodate technology upgrades.

You'll hear from Andrew Lord, optical networks research and development specialist at BT. BT is busy rolling out fibre to three quarters of the UK population (a mix of fibre to the premises and fibre to the Cabinet). I also talk with Steve Christian, head of network operations at NBN Co, just after he stepped off a plane from this week's launch of NBN's first mainland deployment in Armidale. We also get an explanation of passive optical network (PON) technologies from Gordon Oliver, director at Fast Networks.

Running time: 30 minutes 5 seconds.

Topics: Broadband, Telcos, NBN


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • I can't wait for the NBN to come to my town of Balranald. We have not long got the cable installed and can't wait for it to come to the homes. My only worry is that real estate agents need to have the cable installed into the houses they manage regardless if the people want it or not. If not people like myself if we move into these houses after we've had it in our old house will be up for the costs of installing it into the new place. So bring it on and start installing it into the country places first and give us country people faster internet, something some of us haven't got now. ADSL1 is not fast and shouldn't be classed as broadband. True broadband in my books is anything above 20Mbs not the 2 or 3Mbs you get off ADSL1.
  • I expect Tony Abbott to be using your headline on tonights newscasts, minus the qualifications.
  • ****uming the fibre does last 100 years that certainly is alot longer than the rotted copper attached to my home and that is limited to less than 1mbps upload. Bring on the fibre!
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • The fibre will last decades, but the electronics won't. And I'm not talking about obsolescence, I'm talking about electronic components actually /wearing out/. Because of the ROHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) act some years ago, all solder joints in any electronic equipment we buy now must be lead-free. The tin used in lead-free solders tends to grow little conductive whiskers over time - Search Wikipedia for "tin whiskers". Good Act or bad, there's a pitfall we must live with.
    • don't worry, the electronics (and I am guessing you mean switches the cable is plugged into) will be upgraded anyway .. to provide 10gbs or 100gbs speeds further down the track. the expensive part is rolling out the cable.
  • Great podcast
    Lets have more of these informative technical podcasts and less garbage from politicians
  • The target bandwidth of the NBN is still too slow. By the time it's implemented it will be hopelessly out of date.
    • Praytel what is going to superseed it?

      If you say wireless do not pass go, do not collect $200.

      Considering that fiber can do 100 terabits a second (about 100,000,000 times what wireless can do) I would say it won't be superseded or out of date by the time it gets to you.

      With fiber, all you need to do is upgrade the equipment at either end (and maybe in between).

      36 billion might seem like a lot, but with the lack on investment by the federal government since 1993 think of it as 1-2 billion a year.
  • HC,
    I wish I had your complaint re 1Mbs uploads!
    I'm struggling to achieve 1Mbs download on my crappy line & can barely hear calls on the phone. Still I count myself fortunate to have been allocated the only port available to our street. Spoke to my neighbour today (an ex-Telstra tech), only service he can get is via a wireless dongle with a data allowance of 10GB for $100.
    • Sorry to hear about your troubles I recently had some problems with my line and a quick fix was put in place (plastic bag I assume) but Telstra are suppose to fix it properly. Well anyway to sooner this fibre network gets built the better.
      Hubert Cumberdale
  • I have had this NBN debate before somewhere but I cant remember where maybe onb whirlpool. Nice job on the reporting by the way. One of the key arguments you here from some telecoms engineers is about how fibre fatigues as it is under stress. But the problem is these guys are often conditioned to think about traditional uses of fibre as in back hauls, in very long underground hauls where fibre is often close to some spec limit and can often have a high number of joins due to repair etc over time. The fibre from exchanges to homes in MOST cases will be far under spec often 20km or more runs can be had without degredation and in most cases this will be only 1-4km and not highly stressed especially in a duct. Maybe over a 50 year life they might get a few extar joins from backhoe breaks etc but nohting that will push them out of specification range. I am guessing in many cases the exchangegponhome fibres alone may last easilly to 60 to 100 years and we will simply replace the electronics on the ends as they fail or as demand dictates. At its simplest concept the fibres are essentially just very thick, very small, very bendable windows. Have windows changed much in 100 years. Not a lot!
  • I wonder what technology will be used in 100 years.
    Will it be fibre or some other means of communication not known at this time.
    These are the questions to be considered!
    I am Visionary!
    Blank Look
    • I can't think of anything in my lifetime that would ever replace fibre optics. Sand is so cheap and abundant. The transmission of data over copper wire is actually slightly faster than fibre but fibre is so much more abundant and cheaper. If you think of fibre as a wireless technology without the freedom but with the abiity to focus a signal to one spot and isolate interference and noise VERY EFFECTIVELY you cannot beat it. True wireless technologies will never compete with it because to isolate and build bandwidth you need ever reducing cell sizes. The demand in the future for wireless WILL before long ensure those cell sizes will be around the size of building/block size. So the fibre is still needed to get the backhual to the millions of wireless cell nodes. If fibre is replaced by anything in the next hundred years, which I very much doubt, it will be some amazing new technology but having studied physics I am betting not. Now the tech on each end of the fibre WILL change and porbably a lot. Likely even optical switches themselves negating the slow latency deminishing optical to electrical transitions that occur at each end of a fibre run now.
    • By the way; how can you possibly consider something you can't even dream of? That sounds like the argument for not buying a phone now because something much better will be available in 50 years.
      • Yes roddines... what it is, is the old naysayers (generally) contradictory comments repeated...

        When people say we need an NBN to ensure future technologies are catered for (as per historic trends, which is all we can gauge from) suggest, they damn the NBN as "build it and they will come". Then they say there's nothing around the corner which we can't handle, with what we have now.


        Then in the next breath they say, the NBN is a waste because it could become obsolete, especially via upcoming wireless technologies, "who know what's just around the corner"...LOL
  • This NBN thing is a waste of money, they can better spend in on building more shipping ports so my business can use. It's a white elephant. The fibre will be superseeded in less than 10 years after it's completion, which makes it an obsolete technology, and that's a fact, go on read it from here Wireless LTE will make it big in less than 3 years, we're starting to see it now. Where are the numbers of subscribers connected to the NBN? 7?? How pathetic. Telstra can build the NBN for a fraction of $67B this gov is wasting, and that's a fact.
  • LOL... you jest OneEyed... nice work, you had us going for 1 second!
    • LOL :) The user name says it all!
  • Don't worry OneEyed, as a business owner I am excited about the possibilities. Not only will business' have a choice, there won't be bottlenecks for them.

    The nbn will add between 1&2% to the economy every year and will have paid for itself within 10 years.

    When will the anti-nbn crowd get a proper argument about why we don't need it (apparently!)