Time to get more fibre in your diet

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Steve Coakley talks to Derek Cassidy, Senior Field Engineer with BT in Ireland.

In answer to the question ‘are you getting enough fibre in your diet?’ Derek would say an emphatic ‘no’!

Derek is 19 years with BT and is a Chartered Engineer with both Engineers Ireland and The Institution of Engineering and Technology. He deals with all of the technologies associated with BT’s product portfolio in Ireland. So, if your organisation’s traffic has been carried by BT’s network then it’s very likely that Derek has had a hand in getting it where it needs to go.

Derek’s specialises in what the prescient author Douglas Adams, in 1998, called ‘the fourth age of sand’. Adams argued that we would see a democratisation of global communication facilitated by the mass adoption of the Internet and that this would be facilitated by the major constituent of sand: silica – today the majority of the world’s optical fibres for telecommunication are made from silica!

Why do our customers use BT’s fibre network?

With all of this talk of sand and the fact that organisation’s traffic destinations are getting more exotic, it doesn’t mean Derek gets to spend his time on the beach.

As Derek experiences in his lead role for our Submarine & Maintenance Operations team: ‘Customers use BT’s fibre network because it’s a national fibre network that’s interconnected globally. In fact we provide services in up to 198 countries and territories. We put a strong focus on network diversity and also are the first choice for other international carriers for their customer’s traffic. We are always looking forward, for the next leap in technology, to use these benefits for our customers.’

Why is fibre network diversity so important?

As most of our customers operate 24/7, 365 days a year and can’t afford downtime, that translates directly to how we deliver fibre connectivity.

‘Our focus on diversity in our fibre delivery ensures the very highest availability for our customer’s business. That can mean securing a council wayleave to dig down a busy street to ensure our customer can be confident their connectivity has a completely distinct route. From the perspective of international diversity, that means we are ensuring we have multiple routes on/off the island to all of the major traffic destinations globally. Delivering and maintaining our networks for the benefit of our customers, on a global and local scale, is highly important and having a diverse and protected optical network is enabling us to deliver a great customer experience.’

What’s driving developments in fibre technology?

In a recent Silicon Republic article, our colleague Kevin Smith (BT’s head of transmission futures and innovation) said that video content was the primary driver of the need for squeezing more and more out of a single optical fibre.

‘Yes. Getting more out of existing fibre is very important to keep improving efficiencies. As well as what we’re doing in our BT Adastral Park labs, we have two recent examples in the field: our commercial 400Gbps fibre connection from Dublin to Belfast and our trial of a 5.2 Terabit link from Dublin to London.’

So, can we ever get enough fibre in our diets?

‘Global organisations will continue to need higher bandwidths in more and more locations. For me it’s about going further and faster, with more bandwidth. As we develop wavelength switching up to multiple Terabits I have the exciting job of staying ahead of demand.’

Steve Coakley


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