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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Overcoming Barriers To FTTH Deployment in MDUs Many property owners hesitate to deploy fiber in multifamily buildings because of concerns about cost, disruption and aesthetics. With newer deployment methods, these concerns are no longer warranted. By Linnea Wilkes ■ 3M Communication Markets Division M uch research has been done on the financial benefits of offering broadband service in apartments and condominiums. In the rental market, property owners and managers agree that services such as high-speed Internet and video on de- mand can help fill units and retain ten- ants longer. In the condo market, access to broadband can boost the value of a home and help it sell more quickly. Today, prospective tenants and own- ers want to know not only whether a property offers broadband services but also how good those services are. A 2012 study by RVA LLC (sponsored by this magazine and discussed in the July is- sue) surveyed multiple-dwelling-unit (MDU) property owners and managers of both condos and rental properties. Of those surveyed, 59 percent responded that "superior" broadband increases closing and occupancy rates, 42 percent agreed that it reduced resident churn and 39 percent acknowledged that broad- band availability increased rental prices. When it comes to the particular me- dium for delivering broadband, numer- ous studies have shown that subscribers highly value fiber-to-the-home service. Studies indicate that FTTH subscrib- ers are more satisfied with their broad- band and TV service than DSL, cable and wireless customers are. In a survey of MDU residents by Parks Associates, 42 percent of respondents perceived the rental value of a living unit with FTTH service to be an average of 5 percent higher than that of a unit lacking FTTH. If FTTH can bolster property and rental values and occupancy rates, why do only 7 percent of MDU households in the U.S. have FTTH service? BARRIERS TO DEPLOYING FIBER If high-speed services can bolster prop- erty and rental values and occupancy rates and if FTTH is the preferred way to deliver those services, why do only 7 percent of MDU households in the United States today have FTTH ser- vice? In the RVA survey, responding property owners and managers named the following as their top five barriers to installing an FTTH network (percent- age of respondents agreeing with reason in parentheses): • Cost of installation (69 percent) • Time/hassle of making change (54 percent) • Disruption to residents during in- stallation (52 percent) • Not sure return on investment is suf- ficient (50 percent) • Aesthetics or look of installed fiber cables (43 percent). About the Author Linnea Wilkes is the business development manager for 3M Communication Markets Division, a leader in communications technology with offerings for fiber, copper, cable and wireless networks. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 512-984-4641. 28 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | OCTOBER 2012 creased engineering, Tese concerns are well founded. In- longer installation times and higher costs associated with fiber deployment in older MDUs have hindered service providers' ability to fully realize the financial promise of the MDU category of housing. Deploying fiber in existing apartments and condominiums is challenging on many fronts. No two MDUs are alike, and no single solution fits all. Tese basic truths can immediately create physical and fi- nancial impediments for service provid- ers. Retrofitting existing structures for fiber poses engineering challenges that can slow the installation process, add to its cost and often result in awkward- looking installations. Outside-plant solutions don't trans- late easily into an MDU environment, where overcoming space restrictions and aesthetic objections are significant chal- lenges. Older buildings are typically al-