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FTTH generally consumes less power than other broadband technologies. Passive optical networks (GPON and EPON) are especially energy-efficient because they require no active electronics in the field. FTTH enables more sustainable lifestyles, too. A 2008 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with deploying an FTTH network are outweighed within five years by the savings from increased telecommuting. Other fiber- enabled applications, such as telehealth, telepresence, distance learning and cloud computing – and, of course, smart-grid applications and home energy management – reduce travel, minimize heating and cooling loads or help shift energy consumption to renewable sources.
No. Separate ONTs for each unit in a multiple- dwelling-unit building can be located centrally, often in a basement or an equipment cabinet. There are also ONTs designed to serve multiple units, typically four or eight. This flexibility is made possible by new, smaller, low-power circuitry and by the fact that some ONTs can deliver 1 Gbps or more – enough bandwidth to share among multiple customers.
Expect users to desire broadband connections in virtually any room in the house – bedrooms, office-dens, the kitchen. That’s because Internet connections these days accommodate telephones, televisions, set-top boxes, digital picture frames, security sensors, fire and smoke monitors and, of course, computers. As the “Internet of things” develops, more appliances will be Internet-enabled. To minimize wireless interference inside multifamily buildings, experts often advise using wired Ethernet connections for all stationary IP-connected devices.
Portable consumer electronics devices, such as smartphones and tablets, usually communicate with the Internet via Wi-Fi – as do appliances (manufacturers have adopted a standard for building Wi-Fi into major appliances), so you also need a wireless gateway. Such gateways are offered by all vendors as standard-issue, to be used on the home side of fiber network deployments.
Yes, all the usual fire and life-safety issues apply. For instance, just as copper with PVC sheathing would be considered a life-safety hazard because of the combustion products released when it burns, so would various plastics used in fiber that is meant for outside installation. Indoors, look for Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) cables. If you are using thin plastic microduct, it should be labeled Halogen-Free Flame Retardant. You use a simple junction box to change from “outside” to “inside” wiring, just as you might with electrical cables.
Of course, you should check with your local building code inspector. Aside from fire issues, codes may govern where fiber optical network terminals (ONTs – the boxes that convert pulses of light from the fiber into electrical signals for the computer or TV) may be placed on the outside walls or in common areas. A few municipalities specify where network connections should be placed in homes.
First, don’t assume that fiber is more expensive to install than copper – that’s not necessarily the case. Second, homes sell for higher prices when they are wired for high bandwidth and provide access to fiber. What’s more, FTTH homes sell faster than non- FTTH homes in the same market. In good times, this may translate into a greater profit, but it’s even more important in bad times. When few homes are sold, you can bet that homes with high-bandwidth amenities sell faster. This is equally true for rental properties. Developers of multiple-dwelling-unit communities say their new buildings lease up faster if they can advertise them as fiber-connected.
Without a fiber network, your building is underserved – or it will be very soon. Even with upgrades, the non- fiber network won’t be able to handle the ever-increasing bandwidth demands placed on it. Be sure to consider the needs of the business community in addition to those of residents – many economic development officials believe 1 Gbps access is needed to lure new businesses to a town. If you can’t get site selection committees to look at vacant commercial properties, or if your residents have trouble selling homes due to their poor Internet connections, your community is underserved.
They use fiber, but not all the way to the home. Generally, the last 1,000 to 5,000 feet from the fiber’s endpoint to the home is copper – coaxial cable in cable networks, plain copper wire in telephone networks. That limits bandwidth, reliability and versatility.
There’s growing evidence that fiber connectivity encourages businesses to stay, helps businesses grow and become more productive, and attracts new businesses, particularly in high-tech industries. FTTH supports home-based startup businesses and helps workers telecommute. It makes a community a more attractive place to live – especially for young people – which can stem the population loss that many small communities experience. If inadequate health care resources hamper economic growth, fiber connections permit local health care providers to call upon specialists in regional health centers. And if an unprepared workforce is a hindrance to business expansion, fiber connectivity can enable distance learning. FTTH is only one component of an overall economic development strategy – but it’s a vitally important one.