BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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12 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | OCTOBER 2016 MULTIFAMILY BROADBAND TECHNOLOGY Fiber Networks in Existing Buildings Can you future-proof your existing property with fiber? You won't find out unless you allow providers to propose creative solutions. By Valerie M. Sargent / Multifamily Broadband Council T he last Multifamily Broadband Technology column talked about Wi-Fi over DOCSIS and how new technology enhances the value of a coax network. Now let's take a look at using fiber in apartment communities. Fiber seems like an obvious choice for new construction because laying fiber in open trenches is simple. In older buildings, DOCSIS has traditionally been the winner, but sometimes fiber can make sense there, too. Multifamily property owners must build infrastructure to support the array of network services available today and in the future. Competing technologies and their respective infrastructure requirements complicate the decision. ere are different budgets and teams, sometimes with consultants involved, handling different pieces of the puzzle. ey create specs for a job to generate enough bids to weigh options. Consider the spec your recipe for broadband success. Unfortunately, narrow parameters in a spec can sometimes limit providers' installation options. is in turn can limit providers' creativity and drive up cost unnecessarily. For instance, specifying the exact number and size of conduits that must be put into one drill may require more effort and time (and money) than necessary. ere may be a disconnect between the technology that needs to be installed, the installation methods people are aware of and what is being recommended. Often, installation methods that could save money may not be included (or even permitted) in the deal specs because they are unknown or not considered. Are you leaving room in your spec for feedback, alternatives and changes prior to making a decision? LEAVE ROOM FOR CREATIVITY In dense student housing, many operators pull Cat 6 cable, which they perceive to be the cheapest way to deliver quality bandwidth. Fiber is the best alternative and the most future- proof, but it can be more expensive, considering only the cost per foot. However, a closer look at total cost of ownership reveals a different story. Building a broadband access network with fiber allows a property to support a passive optical network (PON) infrastructure. GPON can support a combination of Wi-Fi, wired Ethernet and CATV RF video inside the living unit from the same optical network terminal, which changes the capital outlay directly. Eliminating the active elements in the network also eliminates all the electrical infrastructure required to support nodes, amplifiers and network switches, and it potentially even collapses the IDF entirely. e 20-kilometer reach of PON, compared with the 100-meter reach of Cat 6, drastically changes the network design, electrical wiring, HVAC and space required. Factoring in the upfront capex and ongoing opex, a fiber solution does in fact cost less over a five-year period. With a fiber network, an owner can reclaim space on every floor of every building and perhaps use that space to offer more to residents. Didn't you want to install locker systems for resident package delivery? (Yes, I just had another Green Chef grocery delivery, and I'm thinking of you and your package acceptance pain!) In an existing building, another approach is to push fiber deeper but not all the way to the unit. Telcos traditionally use twisted-pair copper lines for DSL service. Building fiber deeper into the network – say, from the curb where it terminates to the demarc in the building – reduces those copper lines from thousands to hundreds of feet. Couple that with emerging technologies such as G.fast, and those copper lines can now support 500 Mbps and soon 1 gigabit per second. Using much of the existing infrastructure enables owners to save money and speed the time of installation – two significant considerations. In conclusion, when bidding out a new broadband project, keep in mind that there are many changes in technology delivery and that those changes will keep coming at a rapid pace. Independent broadband providers have the knowledge and agility to deliver solutions to the MDU market in new and creative ways. Be certain your specs don't cut you short. ese providers may have cost-effective solutions that will meet your goals, although the solutions may look a little different from what you had in mind at the start of the project. v Valerie Sargent is the executive director of the Multifamily Broadband Council. Contact her at vsargent@mfbroadband. org or 949-274-3434, or visit www.mfbroadband.org. MBC Tech Committee members David Coffey of Advanced Media Technologies and Mark Scifres of Pavlov Media contributed to this article.