Huawei AirPON to accelerate fiber broadband connections in Africa

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Huawei took advantage of one of the biggest technology events in Africa to launch an innovative solution called AirPON, which reuses existing wireless sites to build all-fiber access networks for operators quickly and at low cost. The novelty was presented by the Chinese giant during the AfricaCom event, which took place virtually this year.

Fiber broadband came to be seen as an essential service, especially during the Covid-19 period, with strong demand for the deployment of FTTH (home fiber) in African countries. However, building the FTTH network faces enormous challenges.

Traditionally, operators have had to deploy centralized office equipment rooms and distribute huge optical cables to reach users. This requires large-scale initial investment and the resolution of complex problems, such as the acquisition of the right of way (ROW). Consequently, building the network has always been time-consuming and expensive.

Huawei's AirPON solution specifically addresses these challenges by providing affordable FTTH coverage.

"With the 300.000 base stations in Africa, the AirPON solution can be maximized to achieve low cost and fast coverage," said Dean Yu, Vice President, Huawei Southern Africa Region. “It reuses existing locations, fiber optics and power supplies and can reach 10 million home fiber access connections. Huawei's AirPON solution will help fiber broadband connections in Africa to grow, reduce the digital divide and enable digital life in Africa ”.

Presenting a set of AirPON use cases, Charles Qiu, deputy director of access network marketing and solution sales at Huawei, cited the main benefits in the automatic full-service network division and the identification of valuable area, ideal route, network planning and design, total cost estimation and automatic calculation of ideal routes.

Sunil Piyarlall, Openserve's technology lifecycle management executive, said the challenge for operators was to deploy a quality network quickly, while containing costs.

He said Openserve tested the Huawei Quick ODN solution in its labs and conducted a field test in Johannesburg. Tests found that the project was delivered 30% faster than conventional fiber crosslinking.

"Pre-connectorized cables facilitated a smaller and less qualified workforce, but still maintained an optical energy budget within specifications," he added.

Franklin Kano Ocharo, the head of domestic business for Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom, said it was able to leverage mobile sites for fiber implementation and business development and was achieving successful fixed-to-mobile convergence.

“Mobile sites are the biggest advantage for network operators to launch FTTH, as they make it easier for the mobile operator to start FTTH businesses. Through the operation of a mobile data network, the operator can now gain insight into customers' data requirements and is better positioned to make the switch to fiber to offer more bandwidth and meet customer needs. Based on insights from the use of mobile data and market assessment, we can better assess the adoption of FTTH in different areas ”, he maintained.

On the construction aspect, he added that “while we face the challenge of developing heavy infrastructure by disrupting fiber service in Kenya, we mitigate the impact on customer service by densifying online terminals (OLTs) with Mini OLTs deployed on mobile sites more close to the customer. We have adopted Huawei as one of our main partners on this journey, as we are able to leverage its dynamism and innovation by responding to different challenges that require the construction of unique systems. ”

Also speaking at the AfricaCom 2020 Home Broadband session, Dikah Sylvester, Vodafone Ghana's Fixed Network HOD, outlined the benefits of the solution: “With AirPON, the technology can reduce the cost of deploying FTTH by 29%, compared to traditional approach. If you choose AirPON technology, you will save on costs and time. AirPON is the way forward for the deployment of FTTH ”.

After the first launch of Huawei's AirPON solution in London in February, 45 operators around the world have adopted it in network construction. The solution consists of Blade OLTs from Huawei's OptiXaccess series, Digital Quick ODN (DQ ODN) and OptiXstar series eAI ONTs. It reuses existing mobile sites to build all-fiber access networks and has the following benefits:

  • Acquisition of the site: External blade OLTs can be installed on existing mobile poles or towers to share the wireless backhaul network for upstream transmission. Sites can be selected quickly and accurately, accelerating projects by up to three months.
  • Fiber splice: The DQ ODN network features digital management, pre-connection technology and seamless parallel fiber construction. Technicians can quickly master the installation and maintenance of the full fiber access network. The construction of the network is 70% more efficient and ODN's non-recoverable expenses are 20% less.
  • Frame freeze: EAI ONT intelligently identifies service types and uses Wi-Fi 6 slicing technology to provide channels dedicated to VIP services, such as online education and games. Operators can now profit from the user experience, earning an average extra revenue per user of $ 10.

With the acceleration of the fixed-mobile convergence trend, fixed networks are the basis for full-service operations. Meanwhile, construction of the all-fiber access network is growing worldwide.

In this context, Huawei continues to innovate in full-fiber access technologies and provide sustainable and scalable solutions to help operators achieve business success.

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