Fiber Optics - Connecting a Wireless World

The word antenna may bring to mind various mental images or memories depending on your age. You may envision the tall radio and TV broadcast antennas, the “aerial” on your house, or the 10-inch “car phone” antenna attached to cars in the ’80s and ’90s. Many of those antennae of the past were analog and used copper or coaxial types of cabling.

The shape of antennas has changed with advances in technology. They have become smaller, increased in density, and are often hidden in plain sight. No matter how the look of the antenna changes; one thing that remains constant is our need for them. In our not-too-distant future, the antenna will be called upon to be the key enabler of low-latency, high-bandwidth, next-generation wireless communication.

Initial 5G mass deployment is underway, and WiFi-6 is not far behind. Soon we will experience higher connection speeds, faster downloads, lower latency, and near real-time communication. These advancements will power the IoT world that we have been promised, including autonomous vehicles that will recognize and react to situations faster than the human brain. Driving this technology is antennas, a lot of antennas, sending and receiving massive amounts of data at varying frequencies, some not used previously in mobile connectivity.

With everything going wireless, does that mean the “connected” world will go away? Not exactly, while some antennas such as those in your smart devices are not tethered by wire, many antennas that enable the communications are. Examples are 802.11 WiFi routers and access points, distributed antenna systems (DAS), and macro-cell antennas on cell towers.

As we migrate to 5G, Picocells using millimeter-wave frequencies to deliver the required increased bandwidth will have a much smaller coverage area and will have difficulty penetrating fixed obstacles such as building walls. For those reasons, 5G will require many more antennas than we were accustomed to with 4G LTE and generations prior. All those new antennas will require connectivity, whether they are a new radio (NR) on a macro cell tower, small cells, or indoor radios for inside the premises.

Fiber optic cable is the solution that delivers the required bandwidth and maintains low latency for macro, micro, and small cell deployment.

There is no room for error when working with fiber optics in critical communication systems. A well-rounded fiber optic technician or engineer knows the core fundamentals of fiber transmission and safety and is also skilled in handling, routing, preparation, and troubleshooting.

Go beyond the basics or tips and tricks picked up on the fly with our updated Fiber Optics for Wireless Course, comprehensive training on fiber to the antenna applications.

This instructor-led four-day course presents core fiber concepts and applications related to a broad range of wireless networks, emphasizing FTTA and small cell applications. Course content explains how fiber works, different types of fibers, cables, connectors, and other hardware used in fiber optic communication networks.

Students learn by doing with two days of hands-on skills labs – rolling up their sleeves for cable and splice closure preparation and mechanical and fusion splicing. Firsthand experience is gained with OTDR theory and operation, optical loss testing and inspection, cleaning, and troubleshooting. Students also learn best practices for working safely with fiber, communication system basics, loss budgets, and how fiber is used in other wireless systems.

Upon completion of Fiber Optics for Wireless, students are prepared to sit for the ETA® Fiber to the Antenna (FTTA) certification.

Written by - Sean Kelly, RCDD, CFHP – Technical Director, Light Brigade