Fibre optic future

Passive cabling solutions provider R&M says that the Middle East is one of its stronger markets and that the region is migrating towards fibre optic technology as end-users take a more mature approach to cabling.

Tags: CableInfrastructureReichle and De-MassariUnited Arab Emirates
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Fibre optic future When it comes to speed, the wireless system has not yet shown that it is as fast as fibre, so for the time being, it is premature. - Jean-Pierre Labry, managing director MEA, R&M.
By  Julian Pletts Published  October 6, 2009 Network Middle East Logo

Reichle & De-Massari’s managing director for the Middle East and Africa, Jean-Pierre Labry, is fond of pointing at Dubai’s bustling Sheikh Zayed Road as a metaphor for how enterprises in this region should approach their infrastructure cabling.

“I have been here for 13 years and when I saw Sheikh Zayed Road for the first time they made six to seven lanes and we were thinking to ourselves — what for? But it was good planning because now the highway is packed and they needed it,” said Labry.

He draws a direct parallel between this and how enterprises should consider cabling, saying that once in place, cabling set-ups can be in use for years and so a large amount of future planning and future proofing has to be taken into account.

This consideration though, says the managing director, is not yet commonplace when it comes to the cabling arena in the Middle East. “When you look at the longevity of your cabling solutions, you know cabling inside the wall is going to be there for 20 to 25 years,” said Labry.

“But you know that your computer or your server is going to be there for only a few years, maybe three years. The ratio is six to seven times more, so if you look at the ratio versus the value of the cheap alternatives from what I would call cheap cabling companies, then the cost of the high quality brands is not actually that high.”

He also suggests that a great deal of problems, possibly more than half, that lead to network traffic latency and inefficiencies are caused by poor or ill-conceived cabling systems. Having said this, R&M is adamant that the Middle East does not have to fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to cabling solutions. In Labry’s eyes, although some CIOs here might not be thinking long-term in cabling investments, the region could possibly, or ideally, leapfrog over certain maturation periods and move on to the latest and most advanced technology.

This, explains Labry, is reflected in the ongoing war of copper versus fibre cabling and that he feels the Middle East is firmly leaning towards fiber, typified by choices and adoption made by IT managers and systems administrators in the market here.

“Fibre cabling is coming in this market, it is something that you can see more and more here, the market is changing to fiber,” confirmed Labry.

R&M also points out that concerning fibreversus copper evolution in this market, it has been driven to some extent by the direction that the telecom service providers have taken it. Labry holds up the UAE market as one such example of this.

“Today if you take the development of Etisalat, they have adopted it now for quite a few years and it is going to continue from now on,” explained Labry.

“I think Etisalat is saying that by the end of 2011 the whole country should be fully fibre and it has already started.”

But then in discussions with CIOs and IT managers it is clear that telecoms providers, though steering innovation and network expansion, might also be hindering it with prohibitively expensive bandwidth. One such IT manager, recently suggested that they have been unable to upgrade cabling between nearby offices because of the high price of bandwidth. Labry however, would not be drawn to talk about the cost of bandwidth and indeed he does not uphold this to be too much of a problem.

“That is the way that it is in this market and this is what we have to deal with. It is true that if you compare the cost with some other countries, it may be a little bit expensive but there is no other option, so if you want to be connected to your external office you have to use it,” conceded Labry.

“If you think carefully though, Etisalat and Du are taking the right measure to make sure that there is a good future for the people and for corporate organisations as well, so the solutions that are put in place are very good,” said Labry.

In the world of wiring and cabling solutions there is another battle that looks set to rage, over and above the copper versus fibrefight that has been going on for sometime. That is that with the increasing provision of wireless connections and WLANs, that the need for high quality cabling might slowly dissipate.

The wireless challenge is one that R&M is not yet ready to see as detrimental to the passive cabling business and moreover, one that will actually contribute to the maintaining and driving of the business.

“First of all, to have wireless you need cabling, because you need to have access points so you need to have cabling. You cannot have wireless without wires,” stated Labry.

“The second point is that when it comes to speed, the wireless system has not yet shown that it is as fast as fiber, so for the time being, it is premature. It is good to have a wireless system, practical and very usable — it is used in hotels, it is used in offices and in the public areas — but when it comes to flow and speed, wireless is definitely not as good as fiber. There is a good future for cabling.”

In recent years R&M has gone about amassing a significant end-user-base of customers that have utilised its structured cabling solutions to ensure they have effective communications and flow across their entire network. This includes an implementation at HSBC bank’s headquarters in Dubai and branches, where it installed over 8000 connections, and Arab Bank in Jordan where it introduced its UTP/S-STP Cat. 6 cabling system and a total of 17,000 terminations across the bank’s global network.

The most recent major implementation of R&M cabling solutions in the Middle East, was at Petroleum Development Oman in which the company installed over 105km of category 7 UTP cabling and its E2000 fibresolution as part of a wide ranging overhaul intended to streamline and secure the end-user’s physical layer.

The amount of high-level projects that the vendor has carried out over the past few years is indicative of the growth that it has been enjoying in this region.

“If you look at the company as a whole, the Middle East branch is the fastest growing one in the world in terms of progression in 2008,” asserted Labry.

“So from an office which was just a two-man show six or seven years ago, today we are 18 strong and this year we are not stopping employment. In fact we recruiting and increasing our staff numbers by 20% with four to five new people in the office here. There is a positive trend and it is making this office the first in the world in terms of position within the company.”

This confidence is backed-up by the fact that Labry is certain the Middle East market will rebound from the financial crisis at a faster pace than more developed markets. This will come hand in hand, he suggests, with a greater investment in long-term cabling provisions and, although end-users are hoping to cut costs right now, when it comes to network expenditure, they have to be aware of the fact that cabling solutions have a long lifespan so the investment is low in proportion to the usage time frame.

“It is very important not to compromise on cabling and I am ready to put that to the test. If you put cables inside the wall, I challenge you to work with it and change it. It is better to have a good highway from the start, rather than something that most of the time is more or less OK, but when it goes wrong, is difficult to change. I think a lot of [customers] are more interested in the quality than just on saving a few thousand dollars,” said Labry.

Not wishing to labour the metaphor, but the amount of traffic passing across networks today is exploding and is likely only to continue growing, so although Labry assertions may be self-serving for R&M, it is clear that when designing and upgrading networks the importance of high quality cabling must not be overlooked.

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