Telecom Cables: OFC Is In

Technology Options
With an increase in the number of private operators in basic, cellular, and DLD,
there has been an increase in the demand for optical fiber cable (OFC) in the
country. Service providers as well as utility public sector companies have been
deploying OFC in large quantities. In future, polyethylene insulated
jelly-filled (PIJF) cable requirement is going to come down with the increase in
usage of fiber and other wireless technologies.

Polyethylene insulated jelly-filled cable (PIJF): PIJF
is an assembly of a number of pairs of copper wires. The gap between the pairs
of wires is filled with petroleum jelly to reduce noise and transmission losses.
Each line has two wires–one for incoming and the other for outgoing.

Prior to 1980, DoT was using paper covered unit twined (PCUT)
dry core cables. The primary cable had to be protected from moisture. With the
introduction of PIJF cable, DoT took a decision to discontinue the use of PCUT
cable. There are two types of PIJF cables in use–solid PIJF cable and foamed
PIJF cable. In case of the solid PIJF cable, the conductor is insulated with
solid polyethylene. This type of cable is presently used in the DoT network. In
case of foamed PIJF cable, the conductor insulation is foamed to form a cellular
cross-section, with a suitable foaming agent.

Optical Fiber Cables (OFC): OFC offers almost
unlimited bandwidth and unique advantages over all previously developed
transmission media. OFCs are no longer dominant only in the transport network or
feeder line but have penetrated to a large extent in the subscriber loop as
well. With fiber, one can transmit narrowband, wideband and broadband
communication services to the end-subscriber through POTS, ISDN phone, video
phone, and video-conferencing. To supply all these services with data rates up
to 2.5 Gbps, single mode fiber pair is necessary.

Between Coaxial, PIJF, and OFC
Parameters Coaxial PIJF OFC
Size Heavy Very heavy Light
Application Last mile
mainly for cable TV network
Last mile
mainly for the access
access metro for converging solution
Attenuation More than 
3 dB
More than
3 dB
Less than 
0.38 dB
Bandwidth Very very
less. One can go up to 2 Mbps
Very very
less. One can go up to 2 Mbps through DSL and ADSL
amount of bandwidth and can go from Gbps in the access to Tbps in the
Cost Cost in
terms of bandwidth is more; cost in terms of pair is less
Cost in
terms of bandwidth is more; cost in terms of pair is less
Cost in
terms of bandwidth is less Backbone OFC cost is 1.5 times of PIJF cable
NA Yes No
Interference EMI
interference Needs shielding from lightning and electrical short circuits
interference Needs shielding from lightning and electrical short circuits
interference No shielding required

Following are the advantages of OFC over other transmission

  • The ability to carry much more information and deliver it
    with greater fidelity than the copper or coaxial cable

  • OFC can support much higher data rates and at greater
    distances than coaxial cable

  • OFC is immune to all kinds of interferences, including
    lightning and will not conduct electricity even if it comes in direct
    contact with high-voltage electrical equipment and power lines

  • As an optical fiber is made of glass, it will not corrode
    and is unaffected by most chemicals

  • An OFC, even the one containing many fibers, is much
    thinner and lighter in comparison to coaxial cable with a similar
    information carrying capacity. It is easier to handle and install, and uses
    less duct space

  • OFC is ideal for secure communication systems because it
    is very difficult to tap but very easy to monitor.


chief manager, marketing, RPG Cables
CEO, Aksh Optifibre

Buying Tips

Pricing: The key buying parameter in government (BSNL, MTNL,
and Indian Railways) tenders is the price as long as the optical fiber cables
meet the required specifications. On the other hand, the private operator, which
contributes a small portion of the overall OFC sales in the country, pays more
stress on the quality of fiber.

While buying optical fiber cables, carriers and enterprise
customers should focus more on optical parameters, as most of the problems are
due to impurity of glass.

Dispersion Slope: Different fiber manufacturers have
different dispersion slopes, which is proprietary. Different OFC manufacturers
in the country use different standards, which is just a marketing gimmick used
by manufacturers. Lower the dispersion slope, the better it is.

End-to-End Attenuation: The reduction in signal
strength is measured as attenuation and the unit is decibels (dB). The light
passing through fiber will not disperse if the fiber cladding is uniform
throughout the length of the fiber. So attenuation loss can be minimized if
there is uniformity. The permissible limit for 1,310 nm is 0.38 dB/km while for
1,550 nm it is 0.22 dB/km.

If the attenuation level decreases, it is good, but if it
increases then one has to increase the number of repeaters, which will result in
an increase in transmission cost. In majority of fibers, the attenuation loss
varies from 0.19 dB/km to 0.33 dB/km and there is an increase of 0.01 dB/km once
the fiber is transformed into OFC.

Attenuation Under Stressful Condition: Under this condition,
OFC is put under stress and the cable is tied on either side, and 2.7 Newton
weight is applied on both the sides. The maximum attenuation variation should be
0.4 to 0.5 percent. Once OFC is relaxed, it comes back to the normal position.
Under pressure, the cable should not break. This is used mainly for duct and
buried type of OFC.

The buyer should also look at other mechanical and optical
properties like mode field concentricity (shows how uniform an OFC is), cut-off
wavelength, splice loss, and fiber loss per km (dependent on the transmission

Polarized Mode Dispersion: This tests the optical
characteristics of OFC in polarized mode whereby one can test how much light
goes out and how much light remains inside the fiber.

Chromatic Dispersion: It depicts the number of wavelength
that is attenuated and the strength of the signal.

Market Information

The large-scale deployment of cables by carriers has given a
big boost to the telecom cable industry in India. Suddenly, all types of
carriers, from basic service providers, cellular service providers, domestic
long-distance service providers, and ISPs, to utility service providers like
GAIL, PCIL, and Indian Railways, have been deploying telecom cables in large
numbers, in a number of locations.

The Indian telecom cable market is estimated at Rs 4,317.51
crore (excluding the cables that have been imported) for 2000-01. In 1999-2000,
the telecom cable industry was valued at Rs 3,685.31 crore (revised from the
earlier figure of Rs 4,000 crore published in the July 2000 issue of
VOICE&DATA). The excellent performance of the industry can be attributed to
an increase in plant utilization, remunerative prices fixed by BSNL, and
buoyancy in prices of raw materials like copper and fiber.

Deployment of Cable Fiber by Application (000s of F-km)
Application/Year 2001 2002 2004
7,771 8,145 9,822
Feeder/Local 28,113 33,811 57,803
Long Distance
1,200 2,000 6,000
30,094 25,612 21,307
Multimode 3,467 4,144 6,161
Others 4,120 4,806 8,288
to KMI, USA the global market of optical fiber cable is growing at a rate
of 15.2 percent per annum and the demand growth from the developing
countries will be 2.5 to 3 times the demand growth from the developed
world. It is estimated that by 2006, the worldwide installation of OFC
will be 290 million fiber km by 2006

The industry has achieved a growth of 17.15 percent in
2000-01. On the OFC front, cable manufacturers have imported cables from the
worldwide market, as there was a shortage in the Indian market. However, the
jelly-filled telecom cable (JFTC) market was entirely taken care of by the
Indian manufacturers.

On one hand, Hindustan Cables was the No 1 player on the JFTC
front, followed by Sterlite and Finolex. On the other hand, Sterlite Optical was
the No 1 player on the OFC front, followed by Aksh and Hindustan Cables.

The total OFC market, in terms of rkm, for the fiscal
2000-01, was 2,55,000, which catered to the Indian market as well as to the
export market, whereas the total JFTC market in India was estimated to be 638
lakh cable kilometer (lckm)

Public sector units like BSNL and MTNL are still the bulk
buyers of JFTC and OFC cables in the country. But of late, private players have
begun to source cables in a big way.

Seeing a huge opportunity in the telecom cable market, many
new entrants like Enigma, National Cables, Reliance Engineers, Uniflex, and West
Coast have started cable manufacturing setups in different regions of the

Despite the huge demand in the fiber cable market, the
industry is facing a shortage in terms of raw materials. So on the OFC front,
companies have started doing backward integration by setting up preform and
fiber drawing factories.

The demand for fiber outstripped the supply, and the shortage
of fiber worldwide and in the Indian market led to an increase in the cost of
optical fiber cable and fiber in the market. The cost of drawn fiber reached a
peak of Rs 5,500 per km and is presently hovering around Rs 4,700 per km.

Companies in India

Rank Company JFTC
(in lckm)
(in rkm)
(in Rs crore)
1 Hindustan
90 40,000 974
2 Sterlite
52 96,296 921.72
3 Vindhya
42 4,000 368
4 Finolex
50.87 311.74
26 2,510 248.63
6 Usha
33.5 216
7 Birla
19.5 4,800 198
8 Gujarat
NA 184.96
9 Paramount
20.2 163.01
10 Aksh
92,379 142.54
11 Bhagyanagar
17.38 127.68
12 Tamil Nadu
9.46 7,769 113
13 Concepta 13 106
14 Delton
NA 83.45
15 Surana
7.09 2,046.73 65.08
16 HFCL NA NA 21.11
17 Optel NA NA 18.7
18 Others NA NA 49.89
stands for Not Available      
stands for lakh cable kilometer      
stands for route kilometer

This year, BSNL is planning to go for distributed switching
technology that will help optimization on the JFTC cable network. The plan
outlay for BSNL in 2001-02 is to deploy 473 lckm of JFTC and if possible, to cut
down on lckm. This translates into a drop of around 19 percent.

Since it is warding-off competition from Reliance, BSNL is
very aggressive on the infrastructure side. The company has already given an
order worth 441 lckm of JFTC cable, this fiscal. MTNL has also come up with a
tender for 17 lckm this fiscal. On the OFC front, the company has floated a
tender for 1,00,000 rkm.

This year, there will be an increased requirement of telecom
cable from Reliance Infocom, Hughes, Bharti, Tata Teleservices, Shyam
Telelink, and HFCL Infotel. This year, the private basic service providers will
deploy around 100 lckm of PIJF cables and around 30,000 rkm of OFC in the
country, whereas BSNL is planning to deploy 126,000 rkm, an increase of 26
percent from the previous year’s planning. But in terms of actual deployment,
the growth translates to a whopping 133 percent.

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