Small cells for 5G are further out in the network than ever before, and all these small cells need fiber connectivity.
But Kevin Morgan, Clearfield’s chief marketing officer, said a traditional problem point for the carriers has been at the hand-off between the fiber provider and the carrier.
Morgan said, “There needs to be a clear demarcation point from where the wireless operator takes over.” He said typically these fiber handoffs would happen at the base of macro towers in protected and secure spaces. “When you get down to 5G deployment, you have to put these radios and antennas out so far, they’re just in a pole or on the side of building,” he said. “There needs to be a secure handoff. It’s really the small cells that have no secure equipment enclosures.”
Without a secure enclosure, the fiber handoffs from wired to the wireless infrastructure often require technicians with advanced training to splice fibers together.
To improve the process, Clearfield created its StreetSmart fiber hand-off box. The box provides a demarcation point between the wireless operator and the fiber provider for small cell deployments. It can also be used in DAS and multi-dwelling-unit scenarios.
Up to 12 fibers can be terminated in one of four configurations in the Clearfield box via an angled adapter feature. The box can be concealed inside a mono pole in small cell and DAS networks, or it can be mounted aerially or on a wall.
“This gives a full plug-and-play with standard connectors,” said Morgan. “That’s the preference based on the local jurisdictions.”
Dell’Oro analyst Stefan Pongratz, said in a statement, “Products that are craft-friendly and enable the rapid turn-up of fiber services at a small cell site are key – especially in a 5G world.”
5G has also introduced new distributed architectures, splitting up the centralized unit (CU) and the distributed unit (DU). This requires even more fiber for front-haul and mid-haul connections.
Speaking on FierceWireless virtual panel, entitled 5G Transport: Challenges and Opportunites back in April, Mark Gilmour, VP of mobile connectivity with Colt Technology, agreed that 5G is creating a more complex access network. Not only are there new transport architectures, but they overlap each other in the same footprint. “We will see front-haul, mid-haul and backhaul all over that same geographic footprint,” said Gilmour.
Morgan said, “Clearfield is focused on this area. We’re a fiber-based company; we’re making it easier to deploying the front-haul and mid-haul.”