Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fiber to the unit...lets discuss

In a previous piece, we talked about how apartment owners can still use the structured copper cabling they’ve installed in their buildings to deliver gigabit Internet speeds to residents, without running fiber optic cabling to each apartment. That’s good news because it means apartment owners who have spent the last 20 years improving the structured cabling in their buildings aren’t at a disadvantage in the amenities race. You can still truly achieve – and market -- gigabit speeds by running fiber to centralized “comm” rooms in your buildings and then bridging the gap to your apartments (within certain distance limitations) with Cat5E or Cat6 copper cabling. The key in doing so successfully comes down to making sure you spec robust, quality electronics in your comm rooms to deliver that signal. Now, I’d like to talk about those situations where owners may want to consider running fiber all the way to the apartment unit today. As the costs of fiber electronics have come down overall, you are looking at hundreds of dollars per apartment today, versus thousands of dollars in the past. Some situations may warrant the higher overall price tag of running fiber to the unit. For instance, in market-rate luxury new apartment construction today, where land costs are at a premium, owners can gain valuable, rentable space in their buildings by eliminating the comm rooms that have been used in the past. By running fiber to the unit in these situations, it can make sense to spend a little bit more upfront to gain income-producing space down the road. It’s a testament to the success of this approach that many service providers today are starting to run fiber to the unit in luxury builds, rather than use the older comm room architecture. Garden-style student housing is another good candidate for running fiber all the way to the unit. Because of the typical layout and design of this architecture, and the distances between buildings, fiber to the unit in these instances may be the only practical way to deliver robust signals to your student users. Students, of course, are power users, bringing as many as 10 connected gadgets each to school with them. So ensuring you have enough firepower in those situations is another benefit of running fiber to the unit. All that said, you still want to do a cost benefit analysis to determine if fiber is the best option. In mid-rise student housing builds, for example, the comm room model will still likely be the most feasible solution today. Another surprising place you may want to choose a fiber to the unit architecture is in the active senior living space. Seniors are becoming more connected today, as their Millennial children and grandchildren have introduced more and more gadgets to them for cross-generational communication. We’ll look at this trend in more depth in a future article. To sum up: • Owners who have structured cabling and employ a comm room model can still offer gigabit speeds to compete in the amenities race today. • Fiber-to-the-unit may present advantages in new luxury construction, student housing garden-style, and active senior living builds. • Even with the reduced cost of fiber optic electronics, it’s still essential to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which model is right for you. By: Richard Holtz, CEO of InfiniSys.

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