The introduction of bend-insensitive, single-mode optical fiber addressed many of the routing challenges posed by multi-dwelling-unit (MDU) applications. However, retrofit applications have remained problematic due to structural configuration and aesthetic considerations. The shortcomings of traditional cable installation methods – high costs, aesthetic concerns, multistep installation processes, concrete wall surfaces and craft sensitivity – created opportunities for new horizontal optical cabling solutions.

Traditionally, rigid crown moldings have been used. They require careful carpentry and a two-step installation process: installing the molding and pulling fiber cable through it. While aesthetically pleasing, this option is costly and disruptive to install – think saws, hammers and nails. Alternatively, cheaper, two-piece, square plastic latch moldings are used, but they also are noisy to install and can create an eyesore if not installed properly.

Stapling is another option. While generally considered optically acceptable if G.657B3 fiber and special staples are used, many subscribers find it aesthetically unappealing. In addition, stapling is impossible with concrete walls.

In the last couple of years, the market has sought to address the drawbacks of traditional methods. The development of an all-in-one fiber pathway marked a leap forward. The pathway consists of an extruded PVC duct filled with as many as 12 tight-buffered, bend-insensitive fibers. Laminated with adhesive, it is designed to adhere to walls of MDU hallways and living units without a raceway, conduit or micro duct.

The pathway addresses many of the challenges of traditional horizontal optical cabling solutions. Because it uses bend-insensitive 900µm fiber, the pathway can be made smaller than traditional optical cable pathway solutions, rendering the system less noticeable to tenants. Furthermore, installation of the cable pathway and drop cables can be completed in one simple step, saving installation costs. The product can even be painted to blend with the tenant’s living space.

The fiber pathway makes deployment of fiber networks to MDUs easy, cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing – a win-win for service providers and subscribers.

Linnea Wilkes, 3M Communications Markets Division

The Daily

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