DOE Funds Research on Automated Fiber Switching

  • FTTH
  • Fiber Management
  • Telescent
MARINA DEL REY, CA - Cross-connecting optical fibers has been called the last labor-intensive process in communications networks - in the United States alone, carriers maintain a fleet of about 200,000 service vehicles just to perform this task, and they spend more than 60 percent of their revenue on network management. The potential gains from automating this process are huge, and a number of companies have been working on various automation methods. One of them, Telescent, has now been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a massively scalable (1000 x 1000 ports), high-performance, fiber optic cross-connect switching technology that is expected to be useful in FTTH networks, colocation facilities and even data centers.

Telescent will integrate distributed robotic cross-connects into a system that allows operators to reconfigure their networks from a central network operations center. Together with Telescent’s network management software tools, this system enables self-managed, autonomous networks in which millions of physical cables can be reconfigured, tracked and tested without any on-site labor. Reducing manual and error-prone network maintenance can provide significant gains in network efficiency, availability, agility and reliability.

The pick-and-place robots inside Telescent’s cross-connect switches use sophisticated control algorithms and intelligence based on a branch of mathematics called the theory of knots and braids. The system consumes electrical power only during a reconfiguration and goes into sleep mode in between reconfigurations. Ultimately, this will allow it to be used in the outside plant with solar power. Anthony Kewitsch, president and CEO of Telescent, says, "We believe the combination of low insertion loss, modularity, scalability, low power consumption and latching connections is unique in the industry."

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