You’re responsible for Fire Protection at Hilti. I thought Hilti only made tools?

Tools are where we started over 75 years ago. But in the meantime, about half of Hilti’s turnover comes from outside our tool business – with anchors, installation systems and fire protection.

How often do fires really happen in Data Centres?

More often than you’d think. Even assuming that many DC fires don’t get reported because their operators don’t want the negative press, we estimate that globally there’s at least one DC fire every month.

More importantly, fires are one of the most significant causes of downtime. When there is a fire in a data centre, it takes an average of 25 hours to get it back up – excluding catastrophic failures.

So, what’s the bottom line in fire protection?

A balanced approach. Most people think of the fire alarms and sprinklers. We specialize in containment – keeping the fire and smoke in the room where it starts to mitigate the effects and reduce downtime.

In Data Centres, the biggest risk comes from cabling because changes are so frequent, and the firestop maintenance process often breaks down. Whoever runs the cable may just punch a hole through traditional systems like coated batts and not repair the firestop or report their change to facility maintenance. The resulting holes are a major risk – both for smoke damage to server equipment, but also to airflow integrity.

What does firestop have to do with airflow?

Airflow is obviously a major topic in data centre design, but most CFD simulations and designs just assume an airtight envelope. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. As soon as building services like pipes and cables penetrate the whitespace walls, there’s a potential for leakage. Correctly specifying firestop solutions can mitigate this risk.

Our cable pathway device offers industry leading airflow control, backed by independent air leakage testing.

What other risks should designers consider when dealing with firestop?

The two biggest topics we’ve explored with our hyperscale operators are particulate contamination and data hall security. And in Europe specifically, sandwich panel fire testing has become a major topic.

What is particulate contamination?

Particulate contamination is a risk wherever traditional coated batt solutions have been used in areas which should be “clean” but will likely require maintenance – like for cabling. Whenever the batt gets repenetrated to accommodate new cabling, substantial fibres are released into the environment and threaten sensitive equipment. That’s why we recommend our fibre-free products for use in the whitespace walls.

How can firestop mitigate security risks?

Where cable pathway devices and other preformed solutions are used, there’s no need to allow additional firestop maintenance personnel into secure areas – the cabling contractor can restore the fire seal without the need for any specialist. And for our most security-conscious clients, we’ve developed specialized locked versions of our speed sleeves.

And why is sandwich panel testing such an issue in Europe?

Because sandwich panels react differently in fire situations, the metal conducts heat where drywall and other standard wall materials insulate. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standardized norm to test sandwich panels in Europe yet. In these situations, our on-site data centre engineering team works with our team of Fire Engineers to provide our customers with Engineering Judgements.

How do you recommend designers address firestop in their specifications?

We recommend mandating cable pathway devices in all low-voltage cabling applications, and fibre-free solutions in all whitespace cable penetrations. In our experience, this works best when it’s included in both the master spec and on the construction drawings. We’re happy to assist in the design phase. The earlier we can advise about our typical data centre solutions, the more problems we can prevent on site, and the less risk there is that Engineering Judgements and discussions with fire consultants endanger project timelines.

Unless you have been on Mars for the past year or more, if you work in the network cabling industry you will be well aware of the impending boom in outside communications infrastructure. This of course relates to 5G rollout and the associated wireless applications it will usher in. The technology has the potential to impact everyone’s lives in many ways, well beyond current 3G/4G due not only to greater bandwidth but also significantly improved latency. Beyond existing mobile networks, the first beneficiary is likely to be business and home broadband applications but the linking up with IoT technologies will mean other disparate sectors such as transport, agriculture and community care will be beneficiaries. All of these sectors will require widely distributed networks with high backhaul capacity. However, after cutting through all the big hopes for 5G, mobile device and broadband users will be the first mass beneficiaries.  Intensive 5G fibre optic backhaul is necessary to seamlessly stream bandwidth-intensive applications such as 4K video.

A dense fibre infrastructure will be needed in the backhaul but also fronthaul connections of small cells where high concentrations of data are required. In addition, whilst larger bandwidths provide higher data capacity, the higher frequency spectrum compared to 4G has a much shorter transmission range requiring more repeater masts, duct and pole installations and associated infrastructure. Much of this infrastructure will installed and connected under the umbrella of the major providers such as Openreach, Virgin Media and companies who have sprung up to capture a slice of this market such as CityFibre.

Nevertheless, there will still be a large ‘edge of the net’ market to implement infrastructure on private land such as campus sites, estates and associated roads, farm land and industrial complexes.  Many of the end clients that our industry serves will wish to install their own ‘cell’ whether via 5G or another wireless network.

Figure 1: Examples of uses of 5G

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves

There are a wide range of complementary technologies that have been coming thick and fast that will be able to utilise these new data connections rather than existing as siloes. From wearable tech and augmented reality, to smart agriculture and vehicle communication, the possibilities are boundless and only limited by the capacity and response speed of the network.

With the added capability to transmit ultra-low latency, almost real time data that would be essential for driverless vehicles & and drones, simple street lighting, street furniture and building roof tops will become radio beacon sites. The scope of infrastructure projects can start to be appreciated. However, for 5G to make a big impact into applications utilising IoT on a nationwide scale, the big carriers that currently deliver broadband services and mobile networks will probably need to re-architect their networks at the core to provide edge computing/micro data centres which have been much talked about.

We may be waiting some time for these advanced developments to become common place. Added to this the massive deployment of small cell radio access network (RAN) that will be necessary it will take many years to implement.  In the meantime, additional fibre will be required to link up isolated cells.

FTTX is where we are at

In our industry the main topic of conversation in this space is FTTX, fibre to the home or fibre to the kerb.  One of the benefits of 5G is that it provides big savings by avoiding disruptive deep buried fibre from the kerb to the premise – typically from the kerb to the premise 5G will use the line of sight short range millimetre wave part of the spectrum.

In the UK we have a ready-made infrastructure of BT telegraph poles serving the last mile in rural and suburban areas.

Self-supporting lightweight fibre cables known as ADSS (All Dielectric Self-Supporting) optical cables will be the most cost-effective delivery method. These can be significant fibre counts and 32 core seems to be one of the most popular. Termination of this size of cable can be comfortably made in a torpedo joint which can be mounted on the pole of underground. Alternatively, a pole box with sufficient break out glands for ‘drop fibres’ to the premise or radio device can be utilised. It can be seen that although 5G technology will be an important enabler for future smart ‘everything’ it will be a combination of both a radio access network (RAN) and wired infrastructure that will connect up the millions of users and future IoT cells. Whatever the application, there will be a requirement for fibre, and lots of it.

Enabling Smart Cities

So far, we have not even mentioned the potential acceleration of existing smart city projects that 5G could bring forth:

The phrase ‘smart cities’ has been banded around for many years now along with smart buildings and the UK, whilst having many initiatives and some good applications, has been generally slow to adopt compared to some countries like Singapore. Whilst cities stand to gain the most from the deployment of 5G technology, it is very costly to deploy the infrastructure in hard, congested cityscapes and schemes have completed for funding at a time of public spending austerity. Several public & privately funded organisations have been set up to drive forward initiatives for Smart Cities. Perhaps one of the best known in the UK is Catapult – Connected Places, previously known as Future Cities.

There are some 150 smart city projects listed globally on the site, with 27 of them UK specific. These projects cover a wide spectrum of technologies and applications. One project ‘Bristol is Open’ involved implementing a 30Gb/s broadband network that combines fibre, a wireless ‘hetnet’, experimental network technologies and a radio frequency mesh network deployed on 2,000 lampposts to create a giant laboratory. Utilising Bristol Universities’ supercomputer it is being used to assist with traffic congestion, air pollution and assisted living for elderly as well as a self-driving car trial.

Within most of these projects there will be common elements of infrastructure to connect the multiple data nodes.  Industrial grade switches at the edge of the network are required to connect to devices and aggregate cell data. As with future broadband deployment, there is likely to be a combination of wired and wireless infrastructure including copper cables delivering PoE. These switches are typically going to be housed in enclosures mounted above ground or street cabinets. Fibre uplinks will connect into the local carrier networks which will most likely be a radio device. The transmission of data will either be via a radio link (e.g. using 4G/5G/Wi-Fi or line-of-sight wireless & microwave) or it will be via underground and overhead fibre optic cables. The physical infrastructure of communication cables, joints, beam splitters and accessories to support these networks are the bread and butter of our industry. In a hard city scape, mounting cable joints on a pole e.g. street furniture, rather than underground has significant cost benefits over the construction of a jointing pit and is more accessible. However, road crossings mean going underground is unavoidable and with congested ducts, 5G radio and other wireless solutions should come into their own and help to accelerate projects that would otherwise never get off the ground.

What does it mean for installers?

Companies in the business of installing structured cabling and particularly Telecommunications are well placed to capitalise on this latest technology wave. There are many examples of outside infrastructure projects our customers have completed (also collectively known as Outside Plant or OSP) They include transport hubs, Industrial complexes, university & hospital campus sites, wind farms, residential & holiday parks and sports venues. All these types of facilities offer opportunities for 5G. For companies starting out who wish to get in on the act, there is a range of training courses and certifications available backed by City & Guilds and BICSI specific to Fibre and Outside Plant.

5G tech offers as yet unknown opportunities that will shape the world we live in tomorrow. We can all be a part of this evolution.


By simply connecting a 100 G-CWDM4 transceiver to the front end of Cailabs’ AROONA-STAR modal adapter via short duplex SMF patch cords, Cailabs, Anritsu and Panduit demonstrated the support of 100 Gb/s on 2 km of legacy OM2 multimode fibres. This demonstration which was conducted during OFC 2019 in San Diego showed how Cailabs’ light shaping technology makes it possible to extend the reach of legacy MMF for high bandwidths.

The presentation highlighted that Cailabs’ AROONA optical product range removes the bandwidth limitation of the multimode fibre. This technology enables the usage of the full capacity of deployed legacy multimode fibres to support the high-speed network requirements associated with datacentres, for 5G and next-generation applications

Industry Leaders to Conduct Demonstrations Highlighting Technologies that Address High-speed Data Centers for Next-generation Applications

Allen, TX – March 5, 2019 – Anritsu Company announces it will be conducting joint demonstrations with Cailabs and Panduit showcasing 40G and 100G technology in the Anritsu booth (#2931) during OFC 2019 in San Diego, March 5-7. The demonstrations will highlight how Anritsu’s hyper-functional test solutions, Cailabs’ novel Multi Plane Light Conversion (MPLC) technology, and Panduit’s industry-leading optical connectivity and infrastructure support the high-speed network requirements associated with data centers for 5G and next-generation applications.

One demonstration will consist of 4x 10Gbase-ER 1550 nm optics for combined 40 Gb/s Ethernet traffic transmitted over 2 km of OM2 supported by Panduit’s fiber optic cabling system. The Cailabs spatial multiplexer AROONA-SMUX 2000+® will convert point-to-point links comprised of a pair of multimode optical fibers (MMF) into four independent high-bandwidth “single-mode” modal channels. Panduit’s high precision optical connector interfaces will ensure low loss stable mode propagation over the MMF fiber link…Read More