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Implemented redundant fiber architectures.

As system operators offer advanced services such as video-on-demand, Internet access and telephony, the need for providing reliable, "interrupt-free" service escalates. The first step to ensuring that customers receive high-quality, reliable service is to implement redundant network architectures, where a backup system seamlessly fills in during times of primary system outage. But redundancy alone is not a panacea; although redundant networks provide enhanced network reliability, they bring their own pitfalls. By spending the necessary effort before implementing redundant configurations, operators can save resources while still providing reliable, high-quality service.

Operators must first select what level of system redundancy to implement. In their fullest extent, backup systems replicate primary systems entirely, with a fully automatic switch detecting any loss of service in the primary route and switching the transmission path to the backup architecture within milliseconds. Although this configuration provides the highest coverage, the initial costs of the primary infrastructure are virtually doubled because every element of the primary path has an identical backup component.

Because many components in a given fiber link are extremely reliable (e.g., the mean time between failure of a distributed feedback laser used in a typical transmitter is over 30 years), providing an entire backup system is not always necessary. Many services do not require switching to backup systems within milliseconds. Unless critical services are being transmitted, operators should also consider methods to restore service within minutes of detected outages. Such redundant systems are much less expensive. Operators can save substantial dollars by designing a redundant system that duplicates only the least reliable components.

The most common causes of service outages are powering problems with the active network elements (such as a utility power outage, a power supply failure, or simply a blown fuse), and secondly, fiber breaks. Together, these account for almost all service outages. By protecting against these failures, system operators can ensure overall network reliability in all but a handful of instances.

Power redundancy

To protect against power outages, redundant powering is necessary. Because both headend and hub locations have high concentrations of equipment in a controlled environment, it is simple and economical to provide a 24 V or 48 V battery and/or generator backup at each site. Optical nodes, alternately, are highly dispersed throughout the network, so installing battery or generator backups in each location is costly. An economical way to provide redundant powering of nodes is to install dual power supplies within the node, each supplied by an AC supply bus connected to different sections of the power grid. Each node must have at least two power-ready ports.

Dual powering requires careful implementation for successful redundancy. The dual-power system must:

  • Be self-starting. When AC power is applied to either the primary or backup bus, the node must begin operating.
  • Automatically switch to backup power if the AC power on the primary bus fails.
  • Automatically switch back to primary power when AC power on the primary bus is restored.
  • Automatically switch to backup power if the primary power supply fails.
  • Automatically switch back to primary power when the primary supply is restored.

Because common switching power supplies are highly efficient at or near full load but decrease markedly in efficiency near half-load, the dual power supplies must switch in and out, rather than share the power load.

ISP Customer Experience Benchmarks

Unique to the ISP industry, the X-Press Technologies Ltd. captures customer opinions about critical elements of the customer experience, including:

  • Reliable speed and service
  • Interruptions/outages
  • Data transfer speed
  • Peak-hour performance
  • Video streaming
  • Variety of plans
  • Email, data storage, and Internet security
  • Understanding the bill
  • Store/service center staff courtesy and helpfulness
  • Store/service center transaction speed
  • Call center
  • Website