Friday, August 11, 2017

The Future of Wireless is Fiber

Cactus Cell Tower
(Image source:
I wrote this on Monday for the National Center for Optics and Photonics August 2017 Newsletter:

In the next few years wireless providers are planning the broad deployment of 5G wireless services. Here’s some details:
  • Current International Telecommunication Union (ITU) specifications for 5G specify a total download capacity of at least 20Gbps and 10Gbps uplink per mobile base station.
  • In contrast, the peak data rate for current LTE cells is about 1Gbps.
  • Under ideal circumstances, 5G networks will offer users a maximum latency of just 4ms, down from about 20ms on LTE 4G networks.
  • The 5G specification also calls for a latency of just 1ms for a stepped up service called ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC).
In support of the Internet of Things, 5G must also support at least 1 million connected devices per square kilometer (0.38 square miles). This may seem like a lot but when every traffic light, parking space, and vehicle is 5G-enabled, we'll easily start to hit that kind of connection density and will see 5G towers on places like major highways every 100 feet or so.

How is connectivity delivered these days to wireless towers, and how will it be delivered in the future? Fiber! 

5G networks will be predominantly fiber-based due to the combination of tower capacity and distance requirements. We will see limited microwave antennas used in niche cases when fiber is not an option. Technicians will need to have a good understanding of fiber characterization testing and troubleshooting as these super-fast high capacity networks roll out. In addition, skills in troubleshooting dirty or damaged connectors, tight fiber bends, faulty fiber splices, Optical Time Domain Reflectometry (OTDR), attenuation, and chromatic and polarization mode dispersion will become even more critical. 

Fiber to the tower is a critical enabler of 5G wireless services including The Internet of Things. 

For more information see Preparing the Transport Network for 5G: The Future Is Fiber and check out the rest of the OP-TEC August 2017 edition and previous monthly newsletters here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wisconsin and Taiwan's Foxconn

There is currently a lot of chatter about the Wisconsin / Taiwan Foxconn deal. Here’s some information on the company:
  • Foxconn is a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturing company headquartered in Tucheng, New Taipei, Taiwan.
  • Foxconn currently has 12 factories in nine Chinese cities along with factories in Asia, Brazil, Europe, and Mexico.
  • The company is the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer by revenue that, as of 2012, produced approximately 40 percent of all consumer electronics products sold.
  • Foxconn is the largest private employer in China and one of the largest employers worldwide.
  • Major customers comprise all the biggies including Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Google, and Dell.
  • In reaction to a spate of worker suicides in which 14 people died in 2010, a report from 20 Chinese universities described Foxconn factories as labor camps and detailed widespread worker abuse and illegal overtime. The company claims these issues have been resolved.
And here’s a quick summary of the deal as it currently stands based on what I’m reading:
  • The complex will be located at a 1,000-acre site in southeastern Wisconsin.
  • This will be the first liquid crystal display manufacturing facility in North America and that has environmentalists a little freaked out.
  • It will take four years to build and will employ up to 10,000 construction workers over those four years.
  • The factory floor area will cover 20 million square feet.
  • Up to 13,000 workers could eventually be employed and paid an average of $53,875 a year, plus benefits.
  • Will generate estimated $181 million in state and local tax revenue annually, including $60 million in local property taxes.
  • Wisconsin will kick in $3 billion in state incentives over 15 years.
  • Wisconsin is not projected to break even on the incentive package for at least 25 years (that's 2042).
These projections factor in the maximum of 13,000 workers along with thousands of indirect jobs associated with the project, which Wisconsin officials have said will solidify the Foxconn project as a net win. Foxconn also say they are planning a research and development facility for autonomous vehicle components in Michigan.