What are FTTH splitters and how do they work?
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) has emerged as the prime solution for delivering high-speed broadband connectivity to end-users. At the heart of this network architecture are optical splitters. Optical splitters are, in many ways, the unsung heroes of the FTTH revolution.
There are several countries that are considered as leaders in deploying Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology. These countries have made significant progress in providing high-speed broadband connectivity through fiber-optic networks to a large portion of their population. A few of these countries include:
- South Korea: South Korea was often considered one of the leaders in FTTH deployment, with around 97.57 percent of its population using the internet. In addition, South Korea was among the countries with the highest average mobile internet connection speed worldwide. 
- Japan: Japan also had a robust FTTH network infrastructure. As per Statista Research Department, more than 94 percent of households with internet access in Japan used a broadband connection as of August 2022, whereas less than six percent used a narrowband connection. Among broadband connections, optical fiber and mobile phone lines were the most common ones, being used by the majority of households. 
- Singapore: After over 10 years of investments in fibre infrastructure, Singapore boasts the highest FTTH penetration in the world as well as one of the most advanced, consumer broadband products offering speeds up to 10Gbps. Most people use above 1GBps packages which are mostly bundled with mobile services by the three dominant players, Singtel, Starhub and M1. 
- Sweden: As reported, the government has clear strategic broadband goals for its citizens with regard to being fully connected. These include:
- In 2020, 95 percent of all households and businesses should have access to broadband of at least 100 Mbit/s.By 2023, all of Sweden should have access to stable mobile services of good quality.
- By 2025, all of Sweden should have access to fast broadband. 
- Qatar: This is another example of a country leading in FTTH deployment. The Government of Qatar had made substantial investments in FTTH rollout to provide high-speed internet access to its population. The Government of Qatar, through the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT), recognizes the importance of broadband connectivity in achieving the 2030 national vision for human, social, economic and environmental development.
For telecoms engineers and professionals around the world, a deep understanding of FTTH splitters is not just a technical requirement, but a ticket to spearheading innovation in next-gen network deployments. In this article, we’re going to explore the technical realm of splitters, dissecting their operational principles and significance in the broader telecoms landscape.
What is an Optical Splitter?
At its core, an optical splitter is a passive optical device that divides the incoming optical signals into multiple outputs, without any active conversion or electrical power. Think of it as a prism for modern-day fiber optic communications – directing the light in multiple directions, but without the color dispersion.
Working Principle of Optical Splitters
To understand splitters better, one should first familiarize themselves with the two predominant types: the Planar Lightwave Circuit (PLC) splitter and the Fused Biconical Taper (FBT) splitter.
- PLC Splitter: This uses planar lightwave circuit technology to distribute optical signals from central office to multiple premise locations. PLC splitters are highly consistent, providing a uniform split ratio across all outputs. They employ silica glass waveguides to split the light and are typically employed in a waveguide platform, offering a wide range of split ratios.
The process begins with the incoming light being split by a cascade of planar waveguide y-junctions. Each y-junction bifurcates the light wave, thus ensuring an even distribution across all outputs.
- FBT Splitter: Historically older than the PLC, the FBT technique involves wrapping two fibers together, heating them until they fuse, and then pulling them to form a double-conical shape. The splitting ratio is determined by the length and diameter of the twisted region, as well as the pulling speed and angle. Though not as precise as PLCs, FBTs have their niche, especially for smaller-scale applications or where specific split ratios are desired.
Importance of Optical Splitters in FTTH
- Network Simplification: Splitters enable a Point-to-Multipoint (P2MP) architecture. A single feeder fiber from the central office can cater to multiple homes, reducing the need for extensive physical fiber deployment. As demand grows, additional splitters or higher ratio splitters can be added without overhauling the primary network architecture.
- Cost Efficiency: With the P2MP architecture, service providers can efficiently manage and deploy resources. This leads to reduced capital and operational expenditures. Passive splitters also have the advantage of being devoid of electronic components, further reducing maintenance costs and potential points of failure.
- Uniform Signal Distribution: Especially with PLC splitters, telecom operators can be assured of a uniform distribution of optical signals. This is vital for ensuring consistent service levels to all end-users, irrespective of their location in relation to the splitter.
- Flexibility in Service Delivery: Splitters allow telecom providers to offer varying bandwidths and services based on demand. Different split ratios can be employed in different regions, depending on user requirements and density.
Splitters in FTTH and Their Role in Network Inventory Data Management
The integration between physical infrastructure and digital data management needs to be seamless. As optical splitters play a fundamental role in FTTH architecture, understanding their relationship with Network Inventory Data Management (NIDM) is paramount. This integration ensures not only efficient service delivery but also facilitates quicker fault resolution, optimizes resource allocation, and streamlines future network expansions.
Tracking Physical Assets in Digital Space
- Asset Record Keeping: Every splitter introduced into the network represents an addition to the network’s physical assets. NIDM systems record each splitter’s specifications, including its type (PLC or FBT), split ratio, installation date, and geographical location. By digitally logging these assets, operators can have real-time visibility into the network’s structure and layout.
- Spatial Mapping: Advanced NIDM systems allow for geographic information system (GIS) integration. This means each splitter’s precise location is mapped on a digital platform. This spatial representation aids in planning future expansions, determining service areas, and pinpointing issues during outages.
Maintenance and Fault Resolution
- Health Monitoring: Integrating splitter data into NIDM facilitates up to date health monitoring. Any attenuation or signal loss beyond permissible limits can trigger automated alerts, pinpointing the exact location and nature of potential faults.
- Predictive Maintenance: Historical data from splitters, coupled with AI algorithms within NIDM, can predict potential points of failure. By analyzing patterns of wear and tear, or fluctuations in signal quality, maintenance can be scheduled proactively, minimizing service disruptions.
Future-Proofing and Scalability
- Capacity Planning: As customer bases grow and bandwidth demands increase, service providers must be prepared to scale. With splitter data integrated into NIDM, operators can understand current network utilization levels and predict when additional splitters or higher ratio splitters will be required.
- Network Redundancy and Resilience: Through NIDM, operators can assess the current redundancy levels of their FTTH networks. By tracking the splitter configurations, they can design failover strategies, ensuring uninterrupted service even during unforeseen network challenges.
Streamlining Operational Workflows
- Automated Work Order Generation: When a new splitter is introduced or an existing one needs replacement or maintenance, integrated NIDM systems can auto-generate work orders, ensuring that field technicians have all the necessary information at their fingertips.
- Resource Allocation: Understanding the exact locations and specifications of splitters allows for better resource allocation. Teams can be dispatched more efficiently, and any required equipment or replacements can be planned in advance.
FTTH & Network Inventory Management: Shaping Future Landscapes for all Citizens
The confluence of FTTH splitters and Network Inventory Data Management represents the harmony between physical telecom infrastructure and its digital shadow. For telecom operators, no matter which country, this amalgamation is not just a tool for better network visibility but a strategic asset. It ensures that as the FTTH landscape grows, service providers remain agile, responsive, and always ahead of the curve. By seamlessly integrating splitter data into NIDM, we’re crafting a resilient and adaptable network backbone for the digital age and ultimately delivering high speed connectivity to citizens.
VC4, an experienced provider in Network Inventory Data Management, addresses many of the intricacies of managing such data with their agile solution, IMS. IMS is a complete inventory management solution that’s optimized for all networks. It enables you to take control of your data, eliminating silos and providing a single view of all assets and relationships.
Supporting any generation of technology, VC4-IMS helps you to plan new investments more efficiently and seamlessly integrate operations, end-to-end. By bringing all data together, VC4-IMS is the foundation of operational excellence. Visit the VC4 website to gain more insight on this cutting edge technology.