Recently I was looking into the issue of whether an Electronic Communications Service Provider License (ECS License) or an Electronic Communications Network Service Provider License (ECNS License) would be required in order for an entity to own infrastructure over which Electronic Communications or Broadcasting Services could be provided.
What is the difference between dark and lit fibre?
The regulatory framework relating to ECS and ECNS licenses is a muddy pond which in all honestly I have difficulty clarifying without many hours engaging in the mental equivalent of bog snorkelling.
I did however come across a piece of interesting information which seems to be true in many legal jurisdictions around the globe. This relates to the issue of fibre and when same is considered to be “lit” or “dark”.
Generally speaking, in this context, dark fibre or unlit fibre refers to unused optical fibre capacity that is potentially available for use. In other words this is the potential network capacity of telecommunication infrastructure.
Due to the high cost of any fibre installation, traditionally dark fibre would have been planned for, and installed, at a significantly greater rate than was needed for current demand, to provide for future expansion and provide for network redundancy.
Now it is an increasingly common practice for an owner of dark fibre to lease the “dark” fibre optic cables to an entity that has a valid license to light up such fibre and provide electronic communications services over such fibre network.
Lit fibre is conversely created when the dark fibre is “lit” by a validly licensed service provider with an ECS License when they deliver electronic communications services to their customers. Lit fibre is simplistically fibre optic cable that has been connected to a port on a piece of telecommunications equipment.