Fiber To The Home

Guest Post By Nordin Kembali

On March 24, 2010 TM launched UniFi, its much-awaited High Speed Broadband service. According to TM, UniFi is a combination of “Uni” signifying togetherness and camaraderie, and “Fi” symbolizing fiber optics.

For residential customers, UniFi offers a bundled triple-play service of high-speed internet, video and phone. For internet, the speed choices are 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps or 20 Mbps. For video, it is IPTV, delivered on a separate 8 Mbps channel, and consisting of TV channels, Video on Demand and Interactive Services.

Service delivered would depend on the type of building the customer resides in. For houses, it would be optical fiber all the way, in what is known as Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) architecture. For high-rise building such as apartments and condominiums, the fiber runs to the ground floor of the building, and then connected to the customer’s unit via existing in-building copper cabling, in what is known as Fiber-To-The-Building (FTTB)+Very high speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) configuration.

On March 24, I was in Busan, South Korea (see here, and here) eagerly following the launch online. TM’s website was congested, so I could not get updates from that site. Instead, I got an almost real-time information on the launch on Twitter.

It was exciting. I could literally experience UniFi in Busan. Not the Malaysian UniFi, but the Korean high-speed internet which gave me glimpses of what UniFi could deliver. I consistently experienced aggregates of 5 Mbps or more downloading movies! One of the movies I managed to locate and download was Splash, a 1984 movie I watched 3 times (!) in a cinema in Perth, Australia, when I was a final year Electrical Engineering student at UWA suffering from examination blues.

Was my home in UniFi coverage?. Seemed to be that way. At launch, we were informed that premises in 4 areas of Klang Valley were covered by UniFi – Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, TTDI and Bangsar. I was confident that my home was in one of the 4 areas because way back in November 2009 I saw TM contractors laying fiber optic cables around my neighborhood and terminating them at newly constructed roadside cabinets. Talking to them, I gathered that their target was to complete the works before Eid Adha which fell on November 27, 2009. Additionally, I observed a new black cable with yellow line being strung on poles in the lane behind my house.

However, that was not meant to be. Even though the physical infrastructure was all there, the service was not yet available. That was it, until the morning of July 19, 2010, ten days after I had registered online, I received a phone call from TM UniFi Centre informing me that UniFi was now available in my neighborhood.

In the afternoon of the same day, July 19, I went to the nearest TM Point outlet, and signed the required papers. Actually I did not need to do that, i.e. go to TM Point. After confirming that my house is in a UniFi area, I could have simply phoned TM UniFi Centre, told them that I wanted to sign up, and they would have given me a date for installation. During installation, TM staff would bring the necessary papers for me to sign.

Considering that UniFi service involves equipment more expensive that normal phone service, I found the new phone-in option by TM to be very refreshing and very welcome change. However I still prefer the old fashioned way. There’s nothing like holding a copy of the order form in my hands, to assure myself that I was really on my way to UniFi…

On July 30, 2010, the date of the appointment with UniFi installers, I took a one day leave from work. Actually I took two days – one day to prune a guava fruit tree behind my house which had grown too big that the fiber and copper cables in the back lane were partially hidden in the branches; and another day for the UniFi installation.

Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) Network Diagram. Each house is served by a single lighted fiber with downstream and upstream data being transmitted on different wavelength on the same fiber.
A typical TM UniFi wiring at a landed house.
A TM UniFi technician at the Fiber Distribution Point (FDP) on a telephone pole in the backlane of my house.
Inside the FDP box. The blue things are passive optical splitters. I was the first customer to be in this box, and I believe the first in the neighborhood to be optically connected!
The optical fiber drop cable in a 500m-length drum.
The cable was a local product, newly manufactured 3 months ago in April 2010
Two of three UniFi technicians, with the optical cable drum.
Preparing an optical connector for the Fiber Distribution Point box.
Stringing the optical drop cable from the FDP box to my house.
Structure of the optical drop cable.
Actual drop cable used by UniFi. 2 optical fiber cores, smaller than a needle, about same size as a human hair. The fiber type is Single-Mode.
Preparing optical connector for the Fiber Termination Box (FTB).
The FTB installed at the back wall of the house, its cover taken off. We can see fiber from the FDP coiled inside, terminated to a connector. Fiber going into the house was not yet done when this picture was taken.
Cable from the FTB was terminated at a Fiber Wall Socket (FWS) in the living room. This picture was taken from the net.
A UniFi bag brought by the technicians. It contained test equipment, or so I thought.
High Speed Broadband, on the other side of the bag.
The bag contained these four UniFi customer premises items - IPTV Set-top Box, Optical Network Unit (optical modem), Router and a DECT cordless phone; not test equipment as I had earlier thought.
All connected, tested and ready to go : cordless phone, optical modem, router, IPTV set-top box and its infrared remote controller.
TM-branded Huawei GPON Terminal. I call this an optical modem. The white cable at the top right is the fiber connected to the Fiber Wall Socket.
Back of the optical modem. From Left to Right: Optical cable, LAN cable to router, telephone cable to cordless phone, power cable from AC adaptor.
Underneath view of the modem. It is a Huawei EchoLife HG850a GPON Terminal.
D-Link DIR-615 Wireless-N router.
Back of the router, Left to Right: Antenna1, Red LAN cable to IPTV Set-top Box, LAN cable to optical modem, power cable, Antenna2.
Huawei IPTV Set-Top Box EC 2108E.
Back of the IPTV Set-top Box, Left to Right: Red LAN cable from router, Component Video sockets, Composite Video socket, Audio sockets, power cable. There are also sockets for S-video, HDMI and USB.
Underneath the IPTV Set-Top Box.
AC Power Adaptors for the 4 UniFi customer premises devices.
Channel mosaic screen of UniFi IPTV HyppTV service.
Second page of the HyppTV channel mosaic screen.
HyppTV Video-on-Demand screen.
HyppTV Interactive screen.
HyppTV Interactive Flight Information main screen.
Detailed flight information. This screen showed international arrivals at KL International Airport.
Internet speed test using a local Kuala Lumpur server. In this instance I got 4.96 Mbps download. The service I signed on was 5 Mbps. Impressive.
Internet speed test using a Los Angeles server, located 8,800 miles (14,162 km) away. In this instance I got 4.09 Mbps download. Very impressive.
My Streamyx ADSL modem and router. I would be terminating this service soon, after 7 years being a Streamyx customer since June 2003. I started with 384 kbps then upgraded to 512 kbps, then finally to 1 Mbps. I was very satified with the service, and it would be sad to say goodbye.

TM's skilled and friendly UniFi technicians - Rusli, Syazamir and Rizani.


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