Fiber Optic Cables and the Coming 5G Revolution
Fiber Optic Cables And The Coming 5g Revolution

In the near future, Nigeria, like every other country, will require the mass adoption of fifth-generation (5G) technology to get ahead. To achieve this, it will require supporting infrastructure. Here, we explore why fiber optic cables are a crucial part of this infrastructure, one that Nigerian homes, districts, and cities should acquire.   

In recent times, there’s been much talk about 5G technology and the possibilities that it could afford its users. The world anticipates the coming revolution that it will bring: ultra-fast connectivity, a much greater number of connected devices, and support for the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Coincidentally, concrete moves towards testing and rolling out 5G across the world have come at the same time with a global spike in the demand for data-hungry services. This event, involving the increased use of video-streaming and video teleconferencing applications, has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on physical meetings that have come in its wake.

Nigeria has shown much enthusiasm about 5G. In 2019, it became the first country in Africa to initiate 5G network trials. And in May 2021, its upper legislative house approved the deployment of the technology nationwide.

However, a crucial question remains: do Nigeria’s homes, businesses, districts, and cities possess the infrastructure required for them to make the most of the technology?

5G Network Infrastructure: The Existing Gaps

5G infrastructure consists of a network of large and small cell base stations that possess the edge-computing capabilities needed to make 5G cellular networks functional.

The main infrastructure includes 5G small cell infrastructure and Radio Access Network (RAN) towers. Multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas also have to be deployed in large numbers; fiber optic cables play a role as well.

How the Infrastructure Work as a Whole: The service area of 5G networks is divided into cells. Devices in each cell communicate through radio waves with local antennas, transmitters, and receivers. The antennas are connected to transmission electronics, which are in turn connected to switching centers in the telephone network by optical fiber.

Due to the costs involved in building new infrastructure from scratch, 5G is often made to utilize existing structures that have served older generation networks. However, some components may have to be upgraded or replaced for the technology to function as it’s designed to.

One of these components is cabling. In the past, 2G and 3G had relied on copper coaxial cables for carrying telecommunication signals over their networks. The bandwidth demands of 4G meant that they became less desired as a cabling option. They will be unable to support the even higher demands of 5G.

Why Fibre Optic Will Be Important for the 5G Revolution

As has already been hinted at, the major drawback for coaxial cables is the limited speeds that they can support. Until fairly recently, they were adequate for the 3G-dominant telecommunications landscape. But they have since fallen out of favour in quarters seeking faster speeds.

Coaxial cables can achieve speeds of between 10Mbps (Megabytes per second) and 1Gps (Gigabyte per second) and have recorded upload speeds of between 3Mbps and 50Mbps. Optical fiber, on the other hand, can attain speeds exceeding 10Gbps.

A major factor contributing to these differences in speed is the type of transmission carried out by coaxial and fiber optic. While optical fiber transmits signals as light, coaxial moves them in the form of electrical signals. The medium through which they are transmitted plays a role too. Optical fiber is made of glass and plastic; coaxial is primarily made of copper.

When compared to the telephone network generations they are supposed to support, it becomes clear why fiber optic cables are the preferred option for 5G. For instance, 3G devices can connect to the internet at a maximum speed of 21Mbps; 5G speeds can reach 1Gbps.

5G, Fibre Optic, and Last Mile Solutions

Earlier in this article, we referred to the benefits of 5G that homes, districts, and whole regions could access in the near future. Smart buildings, communities, and cities will become a reality, and high-speed connectivity will enable the integration of various economic sectors and drive innovative business models.

As has already been emphasized, the older copper-based transmission lines will not be able to keep up with the data demands of this new reality. Homes already utilizing this older technology may have to upgrade to fiber-optic cables if they are going to enjoy the comforts that 5G will bring.

The smart home will need much faster speeds to make its data-hungry, data-churning environment function optimally. Fiber optic cables could be one of the pillars on which a domestic, fully operational Internet-of-Things (IoT) will rest.

A key strength of fiber optic is that it’s built to last decades, and accommodates an ever-growing demand for data. Even if the much anticipated 5G revolution is slower in coming than expected, current users of fiber optic will find it easier to plug into that revolution when it happens than those without it.

Already, there’s been some movement in the direction of setting up high-speed fiber-optic infrastructure on a city-wide level. In 2020, the government of Lagos began installing fiber optic cables across the city. So far, over 3,000km of fiber optic cables have been deployed, according to the government’s own reports.

As 5G gains traction, it is expected that the provision of fiber optic cables at the level of individual homes will gather pace. 

A Fiber to the Home Solution That Works

The advantages of fiber optic are not beyond the reach of Nigerian homes. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, they can acquire a Fibre to the Home (FTTH) solution that’s tailored for them.

If you are seeking just such a solution, Layer3 can provide it for you. L3Fiber, our FTTH offering, is designed for homes in Nigeria. It guarantees low latency and ultra-fast connection speeds, allowing you to enjoy world-class internet access. 

L3Fiber is also available for estates and can be designed and deployed for communities in cities across the country.  

If you would like to learn more about our fiber optic solution, you can contact us here.              

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