Optical fiber technology has revolutionalized communications technology with its capability of transferring large amounts of data significantly faster than copper cables. However, the practical application of these fibers required using cables containing several optical fibers. You can primarily do that in two ways: loose tube and ribbon. Ribbon fibers, mainly intermittently bonded ribbon fibers, have become the current industrial trend due to their capability to form high-density cable connections. These use G652D-compatible A1 fibersthat have a small bend radius.
Intermittently bonded ribbon cables
Traditionally, the optical fibers stick together in ribbon cables using an acrylate material. These ribbon fibers improved the non-ribbon cables’ packing and splicing efficiency because you can pack ribbons more densely and join more quickly. For example, in a ribbon with 12 fibers, you can splice all 12 optical fibers simultaneously. You would have to splice individual ribbons for a standard non-ribbon cable.
Ribbon fiber cables provide higher packing efficiency than conventional non-ribbon fiber cables. However, the stacked ribbon forms a cuboidal structure inside the cylindrical tubes, which wastes significant space.
Intermittently bonded fibers solve this problem by making the ribbons rollable. These ribbons have bonded and unbonded regions. In bonded parts, adjacent optical fibers stick together. In unbonded areas, the adjacent fibers can move independently. And because the optical fibers near the unbounded region can move, you can roll the ribbon without causing strain.
These ribbon fibers look similar to a spider web when stretched transversely, so they also have the name spider-web optical fibers.
Source Intermittently bonded ribbon cables rolled and unrolled states
These bonded ribbon fibers have all the advantages of regular ribbon fibers, including:
- Easier to handle: Ribbon fibers are easier to maneuver because they weigh less than traditional fibers of a similar count because of packing efficiency. You need less sheathing material.
- High density: The ribbon cables have high packing efficiency; you can pack ten times more fibers in a tube with only twice the radius.
- Splicing Efficiency: You can splice an entire ribbon simultaneously, making the splicing process quicker.
- Cost efficiency: Ribbon cables can be cost-efficient for higher fiber counts as you can offset the higher cost of purchasing the cables with the lower cost of installing them.
The intermittently bonded ribbon cables provide all the above benefits and a few others:
- Higher Fiber Count: You can roll the intermittently bonded fibers, present them in bundles, and insert them into cylindrical tubes. These bundled structures have a higher packing efficiency in these tubes than the stacked standard ribbons, giving you more fibers in the same volume.
- Less bonding material: You only need to bind the fibers in the ribbon intermittently. So you need less adhesive materials to bond these types of cables.
- High Strength: You need a central material for delivering these ribbon fiber types in loose tube configuration; this makes the fiber cables very strong.
- Mid-Span Acces Protection:: When you only have to splice a few fibers from cable (mid-span access), these fibers offer extra layers of protection. During this operation, you only use one loose tube in the cable; you can see this in FTTH networks where one loose tube from the fiber cable goes to the customer’s home.
Source: Stretched Intermittently Bonded Ribbon; showing spider-like web
Intermittently Bonded Ribbon Fiber Use Cases
High Fiber and Frequent Access Requiring Data Centers
With the increasing popularity of cloud computing, the pressure on data centers for high performance is also increasing. Moreover, these data centers reside in densely populated cities with high data consumption. The intermittently bonded ribbon cables will provide high fiber counts in small spaces.
The intermittently bonded ribbon fibers are inherently flexible, and the fibers used are bend-resistant G.652.A1 fibers. That means you can install these fibers in small spaces where you need high fiber.
Intermittently Bonded Ribbon and Optical Fiber Market
The optical fiber market may reach USD 8.2 billion by 2027, up from USD 4.9 billion in 2022. The primary reasons for the increasing demand for high bandwidth are increased deployments of high-capacity data centers, 5G and FTTX deployments, and the launch of new products demanding higher bandwidth.
During the period of growth, the telecom sector will have the highest applications. The increased user base and reduced price are the primary factors driving market growth. The applications include video streaming, gaming, and infotainment.
The demand for increased bandwidth by individuals has also increased because of the pandemic. Covid (19) increased work-from-home popularity; the popularity has remained the same post-Covid. These points clarify the necessity of high-density fiber cables, like intermittently bonded ribbon fibers.
Moreover, a challenge in the current market is the deployment of optical fibers in unusual terrains, including on slopes and underwater. Such places require fibers that you can handle easily. The intermittently bonded fibers can solve the problem because they have high packing efficiency. So you can have smaller cable diameters for the same fiber counts. That means you can have tubes with smaller diameters and use less material, reducing the overall weight of the fiber cable.
Intermittently bonded ribbon cables have more fibers than the corresponding regular ribbon fiber cables of similar size. High-density fiber cables are necessary because the need for higher-volume data transmission is increasing daily. Reasons include 5G deployment and a general increase in demand for high-speed internet; new digital products also often have high data needs. Therefore, intermittently bonded ribbon fibers revolutionize the communication industry by enabling high data speeds.
What do you mean by splicing?
- Splicing in optical fibers means joining them. Two methods of splicing are mechanical and fusion. In mechanical splicing, you hold two fibers together so light signals can pass from one fiber to another; a fusion splicer permanently joins two optical fibers.
Why are intermittently bonded fibers rollable?
- The intermittently bonded ribbon fibers are rollable because the fibers in the unbounded parts can move independently of their neighbors. Therefore, they won’t feel the stress while rolling them, unlike traditional ribbon fibers.
Why do intermittently bonded fibers have high packing efficiency?
- Intermittently bonded fibers have high packing efficiency because the tubes housing the fibers are cylindrical. And these fibers, in their rolled or bundled state, fill the cylindrical structure almost completely. On the contrary, traditional ribbons have a stacked structure that fails to fill the cylindrical tube.
What is the relation between A1 fibers and intermittently bonded ribbon cables?
- The A1 fibers refer to the ITU-T fiber specification, G.657.A1 bend-resistant fibers. These have very short bend radii, meaning you can use these fibers in tight spaces and make short rolls. And hence, these fibers are preferable for making high-quality intermittently bonded ribbon cables.