What is the real cost of fiber networking?

May 21, 2015

2015-05-21 Fiber Optic Cabling.jpgAs far as speed and reliability is concerned, many network providers still (perhaps foolishly) consider optical fiber setups to be the most optimal option out there. With physical connections, data transfer is thought to be less likely encumbered by environmental limitations like weather-related disruptions, which is a concern with some wireless standards. Plus, fiber can offer top-flight speeds.

But, upon considerable inspection, fiber optic cable networks are often not ideal for a wide variety of scenarios. For starters, establishing new fiber networks is typically prohibitively expensive. While the costs related to each project can fluctuate by a significant margin, the high price tag associated with all new fiber installations is still more often than not quite high:

  • According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the per-mile costs on all new projects in the United States from over the past 15 years have ranged from $6,800 to as much as $79,000.
  • In May 2015, public safety communications consultant Jeff Lupinacci noted that it can cost organizations $30,000 to $80,000 per mile to install new fiber optic cable, and lighting that infrastructure can set a municipality back as much as $250,000 per each circuit. Plus, the costs related to connecting lit fiber can be an additional $210,000.
  • Last month, utility firm Lubbock Power & Light estimated that it could install fiber in the Texas city for around $8,000 per mile, plus added installation and labor fees, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
  • In April, the Vallejo Times-Herald cited one official in the California city who said that fiber optic cabling installation can be as high as $100,000 per mile.

While the specific numbers may vary from one location to the next, the commonality among all of them is the high cost associated with new fiber. It may be easier to establish connections in some areas than others, and backhaul is usually a bit less cost prohibitive than fiber to the box or fiber to the home. Either way, any organization that plans to go forward with a fiber optic project should expect to shell out a lot of money.

Besides cost, a big impediment to fiber is how long it takes to get a project going from start to finish, as The Fiber Optic Association has noted that there are multiple steps that must be followed for a successful installation. [Maybe use numbers for the below list instead of bullet points?]

  • First, area has to be cleared for the laying of new fiber, and that approval process in and of itself can take weeks or months.
  • Then, no matter if the fiber is being tunneled underground through trenches, buried just under the surface, strung aerially or placed next to existing sewer system, the installation process alone can take more weeks to finish.
  • Plus, factor in the time needed to properly set up the ends of the fiber and for maintenance once implemented.

As a result of all of these impediments, it’s easy to see why fiber optic installation plans are often delayed. Thus, due to the timelines required for new fiber, many municipalities may be reticent to expand a network until it is absolutely necessary to do so.

What is a good alternative to fiber?
The complexity and cost of new fiber projects can deter municipalities, but what is a good option? Is there a way to get a fast and reliable network without resorting to new cabling? The answer is wireless mesh networking.

With a wireless mesh network supported by Firetide technology, municipalities and organizations get robust connectivity for their video surveillance systems and other related solutions. For instance, the HotPort® 5020-M Infrastructure Mesh Node and the HotPort® 5020-E Infrastructure Edge Node provide 25 Mbps connectivity, while the HotPort 5020-LNK Point-to-Point Node offers 50 Mbps PTP links with throughput data rates as high as 300 Mbps. A mesh configuration ensures reliability since it means data always has a way to travel through the network, and its wireless nature means expanding a network is far easier than expanding a wired fiber optic system since all it typically takes is adding new hot spots.

Optical fiber has its place in some instances and scenarios, but its relatively high cost, often long install periods and overall lack of flexibility make it a less than ideal choice for a variety of settings, including for video surveillance systems. Instead, with a Firetide-enabled wireless mesh network, organizations and municipalities get a fast and reliable solution suitable for their needs. Be sure to contact a Firetide representative today to learn more about available wireless mesh networking solutions.