© Formactual Projects Ltd t/a PTT



The thirst for speed

July 16th, 2024

Fast car

Back in the 1990s access to the Internet for the average person involved a dialup modem that squeaked and burbled to achieve the heady speeds of tens of kilobits per second. If that person was instantly teleported from the 1990s to now, he or she would be amazed at the broadband speeds we now take for granted and even more flabbergasted at being able to watch videos over the Internet without a landline connection.

But despite those significant improvements in fixed line and mobile speeds in the last 30 years with 2024 broadband speeds tens of thousands of times faster than those in 1994, our thirst for speed appears unquenchable with the march of progress apparently unstoppable.

Currently, fibre to the home services are typically provided by a passive optical network (PON) operating at 10 Gigabits per second (Gbit/s). But not satisfied by that, Nokia and Google Fiber have recently trailed a PON operating at 50 Gbit/s. Service providers will be relieved to hear that 50G and 10G PONs can share the same fibres. And 100 Gbit/s PONs are not far over the horizon.

Meanwhile in the mobile camp, a BT trial of a 5G standalone (SA) system achieved download speeds of 1.85 Gbit/s. This was made possible by using carrier aggregation, a first for any European operator. In the BT trial, three FDD radio carriers were combined with two TDD carriers to increase capacity.

The provision of 5G SA with carrier aggregation will provide high data rates for mobiles in areas of high demand such as city centres.

PTT offers a window on the latest telecoms technologies with its catalogue of online courses. You can learn about 5G SA mobile networks and carrier aggregation in the PTT course 4G and 5G radio access networks. The PTT course Next generation access networks describes the capabilities and operation of the latest generations of passive optical network.


Sleeping to conserve energy

June 27th, 2024

Mobile tower

While the summer heat is welcome, the extremes of heat from climate change certainly isn’t. Many industries including the telecoms sector are taking measures to reduce energy usage and so minimise CO2 emissions. Their contribution to the battle against climate change is not purely altruistic as reducing energy consumption has a financial benefit. Energy costs represent a significant proportion of a telecom company’s operating expenditure.

For a mobile operator, around 70% of energy usage is consumed by the thousands of cell sites in their radio access network. The expected increase in mobile data traffic and the expansion of the 5G infrastructure makes the need to conserve energy even more important.

Mobile operators are rising to this challenge by using a variety of methods to conserve energy. These include the use of AI with machine learning to identify and then predict periods of low traffic at each individual cell site. Using this information, the system then switches off certain radio carriers when the capacity is not needed.
During overnight periods of very low activity, sites can be put into ‘deep sleep’. Carriers are automatically ‘woken up’ again when the network gets busier. As this can take place in a matter of seconds, the use of AI should not lead to any service disruption.

Other energy saving techniques now employed by mobile network operators include switching off 3G transmissions, the use of passive air cooling at sites, and the use of electric vehicles.

PTT offers several online courses covering mobile technologies and services ranging from the Introduction to mobile systems to the Advanced mobile systems course.


Out with the old cable system in with the new

June 7th, 2024

Nothing lasts forever, not even submarine cables. Take the case of TAT-14, the transatlantic cable system that interconnected the USA, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. TAT-14 had a ring topology with two transatlantic cables interconnected by cable segments at each end with a total length of 15,428 kilometres.

TAT-14 was commissioned in 2001 and upgraded in 2011 to satisfy the demand for more capacity. But, despite the upgrade, the decision was made to retire TAT-14 with its last traffic carried in 2020.

So, what was the reason for its demise? The answer, as always, is economics. Older systems cost more to maintain while the latest technologies allow far higher capacity and greater reliability. The Havfrue cable system, which replaced TAT-14 in 2020, has ten times the capacity of the older system and links the USA with Ireland, Denmark and Norway.

Recently it was announced that a new IOEMA cable system will complement Havfrue by linking UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway with connections to the transatlantic links of Havfrue.

Much of TAT-14’s cables has been recovered from the seabed by Subsea Environmental Services which specialises in the recovery and recycling of retired submarine cables. So, the cycle of life continues – out with the old, in with the new.

The PTT online course “Telecommunications networks” introduces the operation and capabilities of the terrestrial, submarine, and satellite links that provide modern communications services.