Cable networks are evolving to provide greater speeds, lower latency, higher reliability and greater security to fulfill the applications demands. These are four of the pillars that are part of Cable's 10G platform.

February 13, 2023

4 Min Read
We're building out

The cable industry is in the midst of a massive construction buildout, due to a variety of reasons: Thousands of new customers are being added to cable networks throughout urban, suburban and rural areas. Network expansions are being built in both brownfield, areas where network is already present, and greenfield, to completely new service areas. Internet connectivity is now viewed as essential as electricity and running water. As new and emerging services such as virtual reality and telemedicine are being added by application developers, cable networks are evolving to provide greater speeds, lower latency, higher reliability and greater security to fulfill the applications demands. These are four of the pillars that are part of Cable's 10G platform. And perhaps the biggest driver of them all, government focus the past few years has been on expanding broadband access.

Government incentives

The Government, at the federal, state and local levels, is incentivizing network growth, with the goal that every citizen has access to the Internet services that are so vital to today's living. Programs have been especially focused on bridging the digital divide and reaching families in rural areas. President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021. One of the Act's tenets is to "Ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet. "Within that act approximately $65 billion has been allocated to improve broadband internet access in rural areas and make broadband more affordable for lower-income households across the U.S. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, provides over $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs. Meanwhile the FCC is administering the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) which will direct up to $20 billion over ten years to finance broadband networks in unserved rural areas.

All of this is great news for the growth of our industry. However, a national buildout at this scale comes with many challenges. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is responsible for granting much of the incentive monies to companies, reports on these challenges. Available labor and materials are essential to completing construction projects on time. Given the current low unemployment figures, there is great competition to hire people not only for this industry but across the workforce. New recruits must be trained on how to follow safe construction practices. The existing workforce needs to stay abreast of the latest changes to network technologies as well. Supply chain issues are causing delays in receiving material, both network equipment and tools, necessary to get the job done. Construction practices vary from company to company and region to region. All of these issues lead to additional construction project complexity.

SCTE's construction focus

As the government grants are being awarded, cable network operators are mobilizing to set their construction project plans in place. With the amount of construction projects increasing, it is imperative that the industry uses the most efficient, effective, reliable and safe techniques to build the network. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) hosts a Standards program of over 130 companies and over 1,100 individuals, which is 100% focused on developing standards and operating practices for the cable industry. The Standards program is divided up into focus areas, or working groups. In 2017-2018, the SCTE Construction and Maintenance working group published two construction practices:

  1. Recommended Practices for Coaxial Cable Construction and Testing

  2. Recommended Practices for Optical Fiber Construction and Testing

The coaxial cable document includes the following chapters:

  1. Project management

  2. Cable Handling, Testing and Equipment

  3. Overhead Cable Placement

  4. Underground Cable Placement

  5. Underground Enclosures

  6. Bonding and Grounding

  7. Cable Preparation and Connectorization

  8. Activation and Testing

  9. System Activation

  10. System Alignment

  11. System Performance Verification

  12. Documentation

  13. System Powering

  14. Return Path System

The optical fiber document has a similar layout, with additional sections for trenching, plowing, boring, duct systems and air-assisted cable placement. Since five years have elapsed, both of these documents need to be updated to reflect current architecture, equipment, and operating practices. The coaxial document will include new technologies and equipment such as DOCSIS 4.0 and Remote PHY Devices (RPDs), and both documents will be updated to include new construction techniques like micro-trenching.

Once these updates are completed, the documents will be used by technicians throughout the country to construct the networks and provide the access to rural and underserved communities, as well as form the basis for SCTE construction training classes.

If you are working in the cable construction field, please consider joining in on updating these important documents. Check out www.scte.org/information-page-index/interface-practices-subcommittee-ips/ to learn more.

Also, Cable Tec Expo, the cable industry's largest conference in the western hemisphere, will be held this year on October 16-19, 2023 in Denver, Colorado, and will have a track dedicated to construction practices and training. If you would like to submit an abstract to present on a construction topic at Cable Tec Expo, please visit expo.scte.org. The Expo call for papers opens February 28, 2023.

Chris Bastian, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE®)

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like