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Before one can begin to design a fiber optic cable plant, one needs to establish with the end user or network owner where the network will be built and what communications signals it will carry. Most contractors are more familiar with premises networks, where computer networks (LANs or local area networks) and security systems use structured cabling systems built around well-defined industry standards. Once the cabling exits a building, even for short links for example in a campus or metropolitan network, requirements for fiber and cable types change. Long distance links for telecommunications, CATV or utility networks have other, more stringent requirements, necessary to support longer high speed links, that must be considered. But while the contractor generally considers the cabling requirements first, the real design starts with the communications system requirements established by the end user. One must first look at the types of equipment required for the communications systems, the speed of the network and the distances to be covered before considering anything related to the cable plant. The communications equipment will determine if fiber is necessary or preferable and what type of fiber is required. Premises cable systems are designed to carry computer networks based on Ethernet which currently may operate at speeds from 10 megabits per second to 10 gigabits per second. Other systems may carry security systems with digital or analog video, perimeter alarms or entry systems, which are usually low speeds, at least as far as fiber is concerned. Telephone systems can be carried on traditional twisted pair cables or as is becoming more common, utilize LAN cabling with voice over IP (VoIP) networks. Premises networks are usually short, often less than the 100 meters (about 330 feet) used as the limit for standardized structured cabling systems that allow twisted pair copper or fiber optic cabling, with backbones on campus networks used in industrial complexes or institutions as long as 500 m or more, requiring optical fiber. Premises networks generally operate over multimode fiber. Multimode systems are less expensive than singlemode systems, not because the fiber is cheaper (it isn’t) nor because cable is cheaper (the same), but because the large core of multimode fiber allows the use of cheaper LED or VCSEL sources in transmitters, making the electronics much cheaper. Astute designers and end users often include both multimode and singlemode fibers in their backbone cables (called hybrid cables) since singlemode fibers are very inexpensive and it provides a virtually unlimited ability to expand the systems. Telephone networks are mainly outside plant (OSP) systems, connecting buildings over distances as short as a few hundred meters to hundreds or thousands of kilometers. Data rates for telecom are typically 2.5 to 10 gigabits per second using very high power lasers that operate exclusively over singlemode fibers. The big push for telecom is now taking fiber directly to a commercial building or the home, since the signals are now too fast for traditional twisted copper pairs. CATV also uses singlemode fibers with systems that are either hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) or digital where the backbone is fiber and the connection to the home is on coax. Coax still works for CATV since it has very high bandwidth itself. Some CATV providers have discussed or even tried some fiber to the home, but have not seen the economics become attractive yet.…...

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