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Expert Roundtable: The State of Fiber

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Four industry experts shed some light on the future of fiber.


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Expert Roundtable

One of the most venerable yet dynamic areas of the AV industry is fiber optics, with a sustained growth rate spurred by growing bandwidth needs, more training opportunities, and tougher hardware. In many quarters, fiber has consolidated its position as a preferred signal-transmission medium.

SVC recently assembled a group of fiber-optic industry experts to get their thoughts on the current state of the industry and to offer some insight as to where fiber is headed on what has become an increasingly complicated landscape. Those experts are Joe Commare, VP of marketing and international sales for Telecast Fiber (www.telecast-fiber.com); Sam Spennacchio, director of sales and marketing for FiberPlex (www.fiberplex.com); Jim Hayes, president of the Fiber Optic Association (www.thefoa.org); and John Lopinto, president and CEO of CSI (www.commspecial.com). Here, they offer their opinions about fiber's rollout, current direction, and future.

SVC: How would you rate the acceptance level of fiber-optic gear as being roadworthy and easy enough to terminate for field use?

Commare: As with any new technology, there was early resistance. It looked different. It worked differently. It required active components on each end. But as the technology advanced and we came up with more robust cables and better connectors, fiber was accepted. By the time HD started coming around, engineers realized that they had better get some experience with fiber or else be left behind.

Spennacchio: There are some that are still leery, but most customers are coming around. Most companies using tactical fiber for live production do not have someone on staff capable of terminating a military-grade tactical connector onsite. They simply carry spare fiber. As far as installations, more companies need to get their people trained to terminate simple LC, ST, etc. connectors. That said, FiberPlex provides most customers with pre-terminated fiber containing a pulling eye on one end. The integrator simply pulls the fiber and connects it at each end.

As far as being roadworthy, every live sports broadcast outfit I know of [has been doing] audio, video, and intercom almost exclusively over fiber for some years now. Thunder Audio, [located in Taylor, Mich.] — which is the sound company for the current [European] Metallica tour — purchased a 96-channel LightViper system, which is being used as a drive snake for 200 self-powered speakers in the round.

Hayes: That question is so last-century. About 25 years ago, most people learned about fiber from Ph.D.s at AT&T, which did most of the installs too. Now, the majority of security, sound and video, and electrical contractors we know do plenty of fiber-optic installations. Back then, every article about fiber began with, “It is made of glass, so it's fragile, it's hard to terminate, and it's too expensive.” Well, it was never fragile — remember it's glass that provides strength to fiberglass boats — and termination has become easier than many copper connectors.

As for price, it's now competitive with copper for most applications — even less for many applications like fiber to the home — when one considers the lower maintenance costs and lack of obsolescence or 10G data centers where the lower power consumption is what matters.



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