The Benefits of Dim Fiber Services
Perhaps you have not yet heard the term “dim fiber services”. If so, allow me to introduce you to a concept that is growing in popularity among fiber network owners. Dim services fall in between lit services and dark fiber services (hence the name) and provide network operators with an additional revenue stream while providing end users a more transparent and flexible service choice.
With dim services, the network operator provides an open port at a specific wavelength to the end customer and provides only amplification and passive dispersion management of the link. There is no regeneration and no other electronics involved. End customers are provided a port on a WDM multiplexer and, as long as the service meets the communicated specifications, the customer can put any service they want to on that wavelength.
Why are these services becoming more popular? For end customers it usually comes down to cost. If you are a customer who wants to own and control your own optical equipment, but you don’t have access to real estate for multi-stage amplification and transport over longer distances, dim services are very attractive. A lit service is probably too expensive, and there is no need for additional OEO expenses like transponders and repeaters in this case. Dark fiber service, on the other hand, would require real estate acquisition (or at least access) at intermediate points, which many customers are not interested in taking on. Dim services fall nicely in between these requirements and are ideal in those cases when the distance is not large enough to require regeneration yet too long for just endpoint amplification.
Additionally, dim services allow the end customer almost complete control over their optical service. They can change the service type, the rate, even the modulation format (within specifications set by the provider) without having to notify their service provider. The service can be encrypted at the optical layer for extra security, and even the service provider would have no way to unravel the payload. Upgrades (or downgrades) in speed can be accomplished on the customer’s own timetable. While there may be only a few end customers who routinely change their service type or speed (mostly government or research types), there are many who are interested in controlling their own capabilities.
Why are dim services attractive to service providers? Imagine you are a service provider with a metro or regional network that you are trying to fill up with end customers. You already have some lit wavelengths – either with your own internal traffic or from a few key customers – and you would like to be able to fill up the rest of the bandwidth. You already have amplifiers and dispersion management in place, but you have vacant wavelength slots with no immediate plans to fill them. Dim services allow you to put new, revenue-generating customer traffic on the same network, using the same intermediate hardware, for minimal additional costs. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, it’s a win-win prospect.
The primary objection to dim services is the lack of ability to monitor the services on the network. It can be difficult to know if there are problems within the service provider network that are creating issues with the service or if the problems are coming from the customer equipment. Without going too much into a commercial pitch, ECI has a unique solution that can solve this problem in the “virtual transponder” function built into LightPULSE™. LightPULSE™ is ECI’s comprehensive optical network health monitoring solution that can provide, via a combination of measurement and calculation, service health at any point in the network. LightPULSE™ allows the service provider to define expected optical parameters at the entry point of the network as if there were a physical transponder at that location, and then report on the service health based on those “virtual transponder” parameters. This solution eliminates network provider concerns about monitoring “alien wavelengths” and allows for a much more robust dim service offering.
Interested in learning more about dim services? Feel free to contact ECI. We are especially dim, but in a good way.