Vendors see fiber to the desk

Fiber-optic installations to agency offices and even to worker desktops might be an emerging market, judging from company presentations and technologies at the 27th annual FOSE government IT trade show.

Such installations can give offices high-throughput data networking alternatives to coaxial cables or twisted pair telephone lines.

"We're seeing more fiber optic installations," said Jay Williams, who is the market manager for the new federal government division of cable product vendor CommScope Properties, Hickory, N.C.

CommScope sells coaxial, twisted-pair and fiber optic cable. It counts as customers the Navy, NASA, the Pentagon and offices of the Internal Revenue Service as well as integrators such as Unisys Corp. and Raytheon Co.

While CommScope provides cable for long-distance fiber links, it is seeing an increasing use of its product for smaller, more localized facilities, such as hospitals that need to trade large amounts of imaging data, said Scott Leighton, director of sales for CommScope.

To meet this trend, the company formed a partnership with cabling installation company Siemon Co., Watertown, Conn., to offer physical cable installations for agencies and integrators.

They are emphasizing an emerging approach of using multimode equipment (where multiple signals of different reflection angles are sent through a single fiber optic strand) over single mode fiber lines that are traditionally used in long-distance networks.

"This was an approach that couldn't be done a few years ago," said Williams. The cost of such equipment has decreased to the point that single mode deployments can be two or even three times as expensive to implement and run.

John Hines, the southeast regional sales manager of Sumitomo Electronic Lightwave Corp., Research Triangle Park, N.C., said his company is targeting the emerging market for fiber optic installations for Navy ships, hospitals, military bases and other government offices.

"We're going to see more fiber to the office and fiber to the desktop," Hines said.

Sumitomo has introduced a new system that installs fiber optic strands through a conduit with the use of air pumps.
Using this approach, an organization can save money by only installing the fiber optic cable it needs, rather than overbuying to future-proof against possible increased use.

It undergoes an initial installation process where tubes are installed that can hold anywhere from two to 19 lines. An organization only runs the fiber it needs at that time. If additional fiber optic connectivity is required in the future, additional strands can be shot through the tubes.

"Instead of having dark fiber, the organization only has dark tubes," Hines said. Using this approach a company can run 3,000 feet of additional fiber optic through a conduit space with two people in 30 minutes. Previously it would take four people working all day, he said.

Hines said a length of fiber can be shot through a tube as long as 2 kilometers, though most installations run 800 to 2,000 feet.
This "air-blown" approach eliminates the splicing of optic strands?which can be a costly and error prone job. Running a continuous strand of fiber also assures that a fiber optic line has not been tapped into?a bonus of security conscious agencies.

Sumitomo's customers include the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Navy and NASA. Hines also pointed out that the new Washington Convention Center?where FOSE is being held?also used the installation system to set up connectivity.

FOSE is produced by Post Newsweek Tech Media, publisher of Washington Technology.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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