What does it take to bring the Internet to a home or business? FTTP (fiber to the premises)
Much happens in the process of building a network to connect homes and businesses to the Internet. Here are nine components of the process, once an entity such as a telephone company or a communications union district (CUD) is ready to begin the work. Each component requires many steps involving various amounts of time. Let’s explore each component:
- Permits and agreement
- Design and validation
- Cable and hardware
- Drop and installation
Poles Information must be collected about the electric and telephone poles. This is referred to as a pole study. The exact location of every pole is recorded using latitude and longitude, and a photograph of the pole. Pole data collected includes identification number on the pole, height of pole, types of attachments to pole (electricity, telephone, cable Internet), other elements on the pole (e.g. transformer box, guy wires), and the number of customers served from the pole.
After the pole study, representatives from the entity and the utilities drive to the poles to determine which poles may require changes in order to accommodate the new cable attachments. Some poles are replaced. For other poles, the wire attachments and/or other elements on the poles are moved on the pole to make room for the new attachment. Then utility workers make the necessary changes to prepare the poles to receive the new attachments.
Hubs Telephone and Internet companies use hubs, which are small structures that house terminals, power supply, and battery back-up. Central hubs also house Internet routers and sometimes network switches. Hub locations are identified before designing the network of fiber to install because the network is built from the hubs out.
Permits and Agreements As with most construction projects, permits and various agreements are required. The entity needs to apply to the pole owners for every pole they wish to make an attachment. The entity contracts the pole owners to make the needed changes to the poles; also known as make-ready work. The entity also needs to obtain a license for attaching to the poles. If the construction of attaching the lines to the poles crosses federal or state highways or occurs within the highway right-of-way, additional permits or easements are required.
Placement of hub installations requires leasing agreements between the entity and the owners of the properties where the hubs are located. An easement for office space also is needed in at least one of the hub locations.
Design and Validation After the pole study is completed and decisions made regarding hub locations, the design and engineering of the network begins. All necessary elements for building the network are involved in the design and engineering plan, and also include maps. To ensure all elements are correct and all premises are included in the design, the construction maps are validated at the actual site locations where the work will occur.
Cable and Hardware A list of all the materials necessary for the construction of the network, known as bill of materials, is generated from the design and engineering plans. The bill of materials is used to order the various parts needed to construct the network. This includes fiber optic cable, splitters, and various electronics among other things.
RFPs RFP is an acronym for request for proposal. The entity can issue one or more RFPs. Companies who may be interested in constructing all or part of the network see what is involved to build the network from the RFP. Companies that would like to do the work included in an RFP submit a proposal to the entity that includes the cost to the entity for the work the company will do. The entity will issue an RFP for connection to the World Wide Web too. This type of connection is known as backhaul. The backhaul carries the extensive amount of data from each network to the World Wide Web and vice versa. An RFP can also be issued to contract phone and internet services.
Construction Once all of the preceding components are completed, the company or companies chosen from the respondents to the RFPs can begin constructing the network to the specifications required in the design and engineering plans and maps.
Customers Product offerings and pricing will be established. The entity can conduct a pre-subscription campaign and advertising to make its new network known to the public in the areas the network can serve. Potential customers can sign up to receive service.
Drop and Installation Several factors determine what is necessary to bring the fiber cable connection to the home or business. Is the home/business close to the utility pole? Is service to the home/business aerial or underground? Is conduit used? Factors such as these precipitate the need for what is known as a drop survey to determine what is needed to make the connection. Then two steps are involved in connecting customers to the network. First, the fiber is connected to the house. Then equipment is installed to connect to an indoor router, which creates WIFI, and a battery backup for phone service. The customer is present for the second step, so it requires scheduling an appointment.
Overall, the process of creating a network and bringing it to homes and businesses is quite involved and can take much time. However, some components can happen simultaneously, such as beginning the design and engineering of the network while the pole study work progresses. In addition, knowing which homeowners and businesses will subscribe to the network’s service before construction begins in an area can reduce the amount of time it takes to deliver service to the homeowner/business, and reduce construction costs by making the fiber to the premises drop at the time of initial construction.