Is There a "Silver Bullet" for Reducing Fiber to Home Costs?

Many would like to discover some silver bullet capable of dramatically reducing the cost of fiber to the home networks.

And there have been improvements.

A municipal fiber to the home network in Loma Linda, Calif. has been able to reduce access costs from $50 a foot to $12-$18 per foot, a saving of between 64 percent to 76 percent in the most labor intensive and expensive part of the access network, according to m2fx.

Use of micro-trenching and use of m2fx cabling avoided traditional trenching for underground construction. Instead, micro trenching required only cutting a one-inch wide trench, installing micro duct and rapidly restoring roadways.
Once the micro duct is installed, m2fx Miniflex cable can simply be pushed or pulled to its
destination from the manhole, without the need for expensive blowing equipment
or specialized skills.

That is important, as it obviates the need for use of special installation crews. The majority of deployments are completed by municipal staff, with the City electrician deploying fiber to the premises, m2fx says.

Whether such techniques can scale in larger metro areas requiring retrofits and rebuilds is a question some might have. Loma Linda has only 1,600 houses to connect. And some might question the economics.

The structured wiring and fiber connection added $3,000 to the cost of a new home, according to Konrad Bolowich, Loma Linda’s IT director.

KB Homes built two essentially identical new developments, and pre-wired Loma Linda homes sold for $10,000 to $12,000 more than the unwired, but otherwise identical, models nearby.

By ordinance, new homes built in Loma Linda must have structured access cabling costing a developer about $3,500.  

Bolowich said in 2013 that the city is still trying to come up with a cost effective solution for hooking up pre–2004 homes.

A pilot project cost the city between $1,200 and $1,500 each for the 36 retrofitted homes connected, too much to provide a payback, even assuming about a 50-percent take rate.

The municipal-provided Internet access service costs $30 per month for 5 Mbps service, going up to $100 a month for 15 Mbps service.

The point is that Loma Linda, even using the new trenching method, might not have found a repeatable and sustainable payback model for most housing, which is not greenfield construction, in new developments.

Already, the city offloads the access cost for newbuilds to developers. But Loma Linda cannot do so for most houses.

So there appears to be no “silver bullet” solution for fiber to home construction costs, despite the improvements in trenching and cabling costs.
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