Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, connectivity was no longer a luxury for most, but a necessity to live and thrive in an increasingly digital world.
As emerging technologies and applications require more bandwidth and higher Internet speeds, the spotlight has been on bringing fiber to home and businesses across the country.
On the eve of the coronavirus crisis, more than one million commercial buildings and data centers had on-net access to fiber-based network services, and despite the economic obstacles the past year, those numbers keep expanding.
“New deployments of optical fiber to U.S. commercial buildings and data centers expanded in 2020 despite the pandemic,” according to the latest ENS @Fiber Plus research from Vertical Systems Group. “Fiber lit buildings are strategic assets that enable competitive advantages such as more profitable delivery of services and applications requiring up to gigabit speeds.”
Almost 70 Percent of Larger Buildings are Fiber Lit
Vertical Systems Group found that larger buildings, those with 20 or more employees, are now 69.2 percent fiber lit compared to 64.5 percent in 2019. Analysts expect those numbers to pick up steam, especially in smaller commercial buildings, with less than 20 employees, that are just 14.1 percent fiber ready.
“As the economy rebounds in 2021, fiber providers have opportunities to monetize the millions of small and medium U.S. commercial buildings without fiber, as well as larger multi-tenant buildings with only a single fiber provider,” said Rosemary Cochran, principal of Vertical Systems Group.
Fiber lit buildings are defined as commercial sites that have on-net optical fiber connectivity to a network provider’s infrastructure, plus active service termination equipment onsite.
Office Owners Investing in Fiber-Proofing Assets
Digital connectivity is becoming almost as important as location and price when it comes to office space decision-making.
“In the digital economy, what businesses want in the workplace is shifting. According to recent data, digital connectivity has become the second most important factor for leasing-decision makers when evaluating office space,” wrote John Meko in the Boston Business Journal in 2018.
Meko’s words have only become truer with the pandemic spurring businesses to embrace of cloud computing. Consider that:
- The public cloud computing market will be worth $800 billion by 2025.
- 61 percent of businesses migrated their workloads to the cloud in 2020.
All those cloud workloads are going to require reliable broadband, especially when many companies are considering a hybrid work model with a portion of their workforce still operating remotely.
Meko says, “Installing a base building fiber backbone — essentially a fiber optic cable that is installed from the bottom to the top of the building with access points throughout the property – is one of the smartest ways that an owner can ensure that its building is ready to adapt to the new technologies that will inevitably arise.”
First Steps to Make Your Building Fiber Ready
Making sure your building is fiber ready will not all meet today’s needs of residents and business tenants but will make your building future-proof for emerging technology.
“The case for fiber in the building is clear. Fiber is the most future-proof communications medium available,” wrote Broadband Communities magazine. “It attracts residents, and it’s less expensive, easier to install and less intrusive than copper and coax cables.”
Types of Fiber to the Unit or Office
If a building has at least one fiber that passes or enters each living unit then the building is considered FTTU or fiber to the unit. If a building has at least one fiber that passes or enters each office, then the building is considered FTTO or fiber to the office.
Of course, more than one fiber per unit or office enables future service and multiple carries to service the building. The Fiber Broadband Association recommends that the number of fibers in the riser be 1.5 times the number of units served.
Building Owner Role
Typically, building owners have two important roles to play in creating a fiber lit environment:
- Creating pathways for fiber
- Building out the passive fiber network
“If a building owner chooses to put in the network, close communication with the service provider is important to make sure the service provider will be able to use the network,” says Broadband Communities magazine.
5 Key Components to a Fiber Ready Building
The Fiber Broadband Association says that there are five key components to making your building fiber ready:
- “Telecom Closet” or Fiber Distribution Hub (FDH): The starting point in the network. Fibers in the building come back to this point. May be placed indoors or outdoors.
- Riser Cable(s): Also known as the distribution cable. Serves as the backbone of the network. Can be one or more cables, but the minimum total fiber count should be enough for each unit in the building.
- Fiber Distribution Terminal (FDT): Serves as a transition point between the riser and drop cables. Often placed on every floor or every other floor. Some networks do not include terminals.
- Drop: The cable that runs from the FDT to the living or office unit. In some networks, the riser and drop cables are the same cable, running up the riser and down the hall.
- In-Unit or In-Office Network: Cabling components in each unit or office.
Spaces Needed Inside Your Fiber Ready Building
Those fiber components need a space in your fiber ready building.
For starters, your fiber must make an entrance into the building:
- Aerial access requires building attachment capability and an entrance hole into the building.
- Underground access requires a conduit (2 inches or larger preferred) from outside to inside, preferably to the telecom closet.
- Sharp bends in the duct should be minimized. The duct must meet minimum bend radius/ diameter requirements.
When the fiber reaches your telecom closet or FDH location:
- Fiber connections and equipment are typically located in a dedicated electrical or telecom closet, often on a low floor in the building with access to riser spaces.
- Equipment can be mounted either on the wall or in an electronics rack (typically 19 inches wide).
- Power and HVAC services will be helpful if the service provider plans to install active electronics in the closet.
Space needed at terminal or patch panel locations includes:
- FDTs or patch panels used to connect riser cables to drop cables are typically housed in closets that have access to the riser or in the stairwell.
- Terminals on a floor are most often wall mounted.
Pathways Fiber Takes in Your Building
The pathways your fiber takes in your building may depend on if the building is under construction or if it already has occupants. “Pathways for fiber placement are critical,” says Fiber Communities magazine.
Pathways can be either indoors or outdoors, are typically designated as “riser” or “drop,” and must be large enough to accommodate the cables needed to reach the unit.
The Fiber Broadband Association breaks it down as:
- New Buildings: Easiest approach is to place conduits or micro-ducts with pull strings in the riser and to each unit during building construction. The pull strings can then pull cables into place as needed.
- Occupied Buildings: Conduit placement is not often possible without extensive renovation, but there are many alternative ways of making pathways, including placing cables above drop ceilings or moldings, mounting small cables on wall surfaces, or running cables up the outsides of buildings into individual units.
- Exterior Pathways: Sometimes pathways can not be created inside buildings. In that case, pathways can be created outside, utilizing runs under gutters, along soffit lines, and under moldings.
The final step is the actual fiber into the unit or office where it typically terminates in an “Optical Network Terminal” (ONT). The ONT is usually located near AC power and can be desk or wall mounted.
Optional devices from the fiber service provider can include set-top boxes, router and/or switch, and a battery back-up unit.
Contact PS Lightwave today to find out how we can help make your building in the Houston metro area fiber ready.
PS LIGHTWAVE provides high-speed, fiber Internet for public and private commercial entities in the Greater Houston and surrounding areas.
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