Interview: Glen Johnston, AFL Telecommunications

AFL Telecommunications Pty Ltd

By Jonathan Nally
Thursday, 07 December, 2017

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Which technologies or innovations do you think will be game changers in 2018?

Cabling is one of those non-glamorous, behind-the-scenes technologies that often seems forgotten, yet it is nonetheless of vital importance for our entire technological society. Multimode fibre-optic cable (such as the newest OM5) is predominantly used in enterprise applications and has been making big waves for quite a while now, as it enables large data throughput.

But ironically, we’re seeing a resurgence in singlemode cable applications within networks and data centres, as the cost of the active equipment at either end of the fibres continues to fall. As for copper cabling, Category 8 could end up being another Category 4, ie, no life span. Why wouldn’t people use fibre-optic if they genuinely want to run 40 gigabits per second?

Which ICT innovations or disruptions are your customers telling you they are most interested in for the year ahead?

The negatives are that OM5 is more expensive, and clients have to ask themselves if it is really needed for their applications. Some people are moving to singlemode more and more because the active equipment needed to drive it is coming down in price. So the question is, do we even need a better multimode fibre over those enterprise-level distances?

Multimode fibre is backwards compatible, that’s one positive thing. It is also much more forgiving than singlemode; with singlemode, the active equipment to transmit the light has to be much more precise and it is therefore more costly. But more and more people are putting singlemode fibre in because the cost of the active equipment is dropping to the point that it is more economically feasible.

What will be the biggest growth opportunities for your company in 2018?

Defence is a large growth area for us, with the military’s growing need for better and more robust communication solutions that can be deployed in the field, run over by tanks, used inside aircraft and submarines and so on, and yet still work when needed. And if it’s good enough for Defence, it’s good enough for anyone really. With data centres and storage area networks, we’re seeing more and more larger companies using data centres, so that’s a huge growth area for us as well. The centralising of network processing (ie, government departments’ use of data centres) is another sector that’s booming.

Aside from your own, which ICT companies will be the ones to watch in 2018 and why?

The big tech giants such as Google and Amazon are creating more data centres in Australia and the region, and that’s great for business. They’re the ones that have so much of the world’s data going through their centres. The search engine traffic driven by Google is just mind-boggling. And Amazon is growing every day. And those companies are needing more and more fibre all the time, as are newer entrants who are taking on the tech giants.

Glen Johnston is Director of Marketing at AFL Telecommunications, a leading manufacturer and designer of fibre-optic products and associated equipment worldwide. He has spent 30 years in the industry and has been involved in many of the largest and most demanding cabling efforts in Australia.

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