Poor Connections put NGNs at Risk

The poor quality of some imported Type 43 coaxial connectors installed in the UK’s telecoms networks could disrupt next generation services, warns midlands based Greenwoods Communications. Greenwoods state that as the adoption of Next Generation Networks (NGN) grows, cost-cutting by telcos could result in more poor-quality connectors being installed, and that these cheap connectors could lead to service disruptions, loss of revenue and increased maintenance costs.

Tests run by Greenwoods and its partner company Interface Components have found that many imported type 43 connectors are of poor-quality, have inadequate insulation and poor quality (soft jewellery grade) gold plating, resulting in a short service life.

Gary Elmes, Technical Manager at Interface Components, explained that problems could become more widespread because of the way NGNs function:
“NGNs tend to have far fewer interconnection points because more of the switching is done by computers. So a connector failure has the potential to cause far wider disruption to services than in other networks.”

Millions of Type 43 coaxial connectors are installed in telecoms networks throughout Europe and beyond, and over the past two to three years there has been a steady growth of low-quality foreign imports into the UK. The influx of sub-standard Type 43 connectors is a result of tight profit margins and telcos looking to cost savings as a way of hitting their profit targets.

However, this may have the opposite effect and create additional costs. In a typical exchange, if only one Type 43 connector fails, between 30 and 1800 voice calls could be lost. As more users look to download digital content to PCs or television set-top boxes, or watch live TV on their mobiles, such disruption could have a negative effect on users’ experience, making them reluctant to use such services regularly.

This could have severe impact on service contracts between telcos and content providers, resulting in service failure penalties and long term damage to reputation.

The manufacture of poor-quality connectors has been influenced by the high price of gold, some manufacturers are now plating the connectors with a very thin layer of low grade soft gold. This has meant that these products do not meet the accepted standard used by carriers such as BT.

It is hard to spot poor quality imports, as some even look better than their approved counterparts, because bright decorative grade gold coatings have been used. Tests carried out by Twickenham Plating Group have found gold coating thicknesses for some connectors are only 8% of what is required, making them inadequate for Telco applications.

Greenwoods urge operators not to sacrifice quality for cost-savings and to take a greater interest in the components sub-contractors use, as the potential costs incurred as a result of component failure far outweigh money saved buying components that are not industry standard.