THE FIBER OPTIC INDUSTRY IS GOING THROUGH GROWING PAINS. As nationwide connectivity
projects such as Google Fiber have accelerated the deployment of connected cities, the realities of running cable throughout
America’s communities is proving a challenge. Some reports estimated the cost of Google Fiber averaged $1 billion per city.
The project faced some obstacles related to the installation requirements. Currently, the installations consist of fiber cables
underground until the last mile, after which they run along utility poles into neighborhoods and homes.
Jim Hayes, Fiber Optic Association (FOA) president and
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR contributing editor, said low-voltage installation
projects such as Google Fiber (which announced it would cease adding
new projects in 2016) haven’t always been planned the way traditional
fiber installations were. That’s in part because the new generation
of managers leading these projects brings different expertise to their
work. Project managers with engineering and cable-installation backgrounds are being replaced by programmers with a software-driven
agenda, Hayes said. That means contractors are challenged with providing the nuts-and-bolts understanding of installation work for these
Therefore, today’s low-voltage contractors have to come to projects
with knowledgeable electricians and be prepared for some customer service. With an emphasis on bringing Wi-Fi connectivity to homes, fiber-optic
installation projects are often customer-facing. Also, when running fiber
for these projects, low-voltage contractors find themselves competing with
telecom companies, whose crews have sometimes spent years interacting
with the public. Fiber installation isn’t always about big, community-wide
projects either, and regardless of whether the project is large or small,
contractors today have to send out properly trained crews who understand
the installation, and can act as salesmen.
Even faster than some contractors adapt to fiber cable demand, training programs are preparing the latest electricians with fiber basics. For
instance, almost all IBEW Local No. 164’s JATC electricians and telecommunications technicians in Paramus, N.J., are being trained for installing,
terminating and troubleshooting fiber optic cables, as well as connectors
and fusion splicing, said Paul Lagana, assistant training director.
In communities and schools, the government is doing the work. Colleg-
es, in particular, have become a hotbed of fiber optic installation activity.
The growth results from schools’ thirst for more bandwidth at faster
speeds, Lagana said. In addition, there is almost no limit to applications,
from distributed antenna systems (DAS) and security systems to internet-
access, using a variety of hardware devices.
“[This] makes installation for these types of cabling networks a
must-have for academia,” Lagana said. “Since constant advancements
in optical technology keep emerging, the speed and bandwidth which
was carried over the entire 12-strand [multifiber push-on] MPO is now
being transmitted and received over only two strands of fibers, and this
advancement will only continue.”
At the same time, the cloud takes up a large share of the work low-voltage
contractors are doing in data centers.
“We find many of these applications use preterminated MPO connec-
tions,” Lagana said.
One key problem contractors face in the field is the lead times required
to receive these preterminated connectors. Availability of product is the
key issue for contractors, according to Noel Hernberger, Southern Nevada
“The division heads and project managers are telling me about one- to
three-month delays in getting raw fiber cable from producers, not just the local supplier,” he said. This may be because, since the recession, warehouses
have reduced the amount of product they keep in stock, and manufacturers
have trimmed their offerings to streamline the supply process.
“[However,] the lack of manufacturing output is slowing many of our
projects at a time when we really need them to take off,” Hernberger said.
In addition to that, specific fiber cable lengths are often overesti-
mated to relieve fear of short cabling issues. These excess lengths of
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