Fiber To The Home
The Ultimate Guide
As a fiber optic network developer, you’re licking your chops at the skyrocketing demand for the internet and communication services.
Last year, over 50% of the world’s population, 3.9 billion people, used the internet. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be nearly seven connected devices per person worldwide, up from two in 2010.
On top of this, the media we consume is growing richer and more interactive all of the time. We want to stream or download high-quality pictures and video with no interruption. DSLs and coaxial cables don’t have the carrying capacity to support such need.
So what’s the answer for network builders who are responsible for making this all happen?
Fiber to the home broadband connections.
Fiber optic networks have proven to be an effective, low-cost method for transmitting large amounts of digital information over long distances. However, fiber hasn’t made it all the way to the home for many internet users as most households still rely on copper wiring for the “last mile” of internet connectivity.
This is changing.
FTTH is the optimal solution for meeting the unprecedented demand of the future. Understanding how to design and deploy FTTH networks will be a key success factor going forward. Investing the time today to understand the technology is a worthwhile endeavor.
Here, you can find everything you need. Start from the top or navigate to specific sections using the table of contents below. Read along, or download a PDF version.
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) refers to the use of fiber optic cable to deliver broadband internet connections from a central location directly to the home. In a FTTH network, optical fiber is used over the “last mile,” displacing DSLs or coaxial wires with lower bandwidth capacities.
“Fiber to the home” is one iteration under the “FTTx” umbrella category which identifies any broadband network design that connects optical fiber directly to a certain termination point. Other variants include Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), Fiber to the Building (FTTB), and Fiber to the Curb (FTTC).
With FTTH, homeowners get faster internet and increased bandwidth. They can stream higher-quality content and have more devices connected to the internet simultaneously. In addition, users can get internet and TV service over the same broadband connection.
FTTH is an attractive solution for network builders as the core fiber technology is “future proof,” meaning it will be able to support broadband demands for the foreseeable future. Fiber cables have virtually unlimited capacity.
Nearly 20 million Americans have FTTH-enabled high-speed internet today. Fiber network expansion will be the key to supporting next-generation technologies in the home. The Internet of Things and AI applications will grow tremendously over the next decade, forcing network operators to utilize fiber more widely.
Compared to other broadband connection types, FTTH is a far more effective method for delivering digital data over long distances.
Because of the underlying fiber optic cable technology, FTTH offers faster connection speeds and nearly unlimited bandwidth capacity at roughly the same cost. Fiber can carry 10x more data than copper, the primary material used in digital subscriber lines (DSLs). In a future where internet demand continues to increase exponentially, we will need this capacity to avoid major broadband bottlenecks.
Fiber can also transmit information 400x further and 10x faster than copper wires. For this reason, fiber has already become the infrastructure through which so much information travels across the globe today.
Compared to copper, fiber is much more secure, reliable, and durable. Because fiber cables transmit information through electrical pulses, they aren’t susceptible to tapping. They are also resistant to electrical noise, interference, and voltage surges. In addition, fiber cables are designed to last 30-50 years.
|10+ Gbs||1 Gb|
|30 - 50 years||5 years|
|N/A||Subject to voltage surges, EMI / RFI interference|
|40 km @ 10,000 Mbps||100 m @ 1,000 Mbps|
|No signal radiation, difficult to tap||Subject to tapping|
Researchers first realized the potential benefits of FTTH networks in the 1970s.
Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Peter Schultz, Dr. Donald Keck, and Dr. Robert Maurer began experimenting with fused silica, a transparent glass material. They developed the first optical wire which could transmit data more than 65,000x faster than copper cables could.
Less than a decade later, General Telephone and Electronics implemented the first optical network in Southern California. Bell also launched a fiber-based telephone network in Chicago.
Even early on, fiber’s advantages were obvious. However, at the time, installing fiber cost too much to justify delivering it over the last mile of telecommunication networks. Consumers also didn’t need the nearly unlimited capacity offered by fiber. Instead, developers built fiber to the curb (FTTC) networks and used copper wiring to bring phone and internet access to households.
Twenty years later, fiber supported 80% of all long-range data transmission across the world. Due to technological advances, the material has now become the primary choice for delivering high-speed connectivity. Fiber networks are also much more cost effective to deploy as material and installation expenses have both come down drastically.
Combined with rising internet connectivity demands, network developers can easily justify the upfront investment required to build FTTH networks. With the Internet of Things and smart homes on the rise, it makes more sense now than ever to connect fiber directly to homes.
FTTH deployment has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. In the near future, it is projected that tens of millions of additional homes will subscribe to FTTH services.
As of the end of 2018, more than 18 million homes in the U.S. have direct fiber broadband access. Overall, 47% of all homes marketed to by service providers subscribe to FTTH. Much of this growth is coming from smaller network providers. However, industry giants, like Verizon and AT&T, are also investing heavily in the technology.
Asia is the frontrunner in FTTH deployment as more than 225 million people subscribed to direct fiber broadband internet at the end of 2017. China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore lead the charge and are expected to continue down this path. In 2018, FTTH penetration in China was 26%. In major Chinese cities, FTTH coverage today is nearly 90%. Japan is currently adopting FTTH faster than any other country in the world at an 18% CAGR.
Italy, France, New Zealand, and Brazil are also rapidly deploying FTTH networks (>10% growth). According to Future Market Insights, the global FTTH market will grow at a 14.4% CAGR to $37 billion by 2027. This growth will be driven heavily by the IoT space, government initiatives, and increased demand for high-speed internet.
When it comes to understanding and describing FTTH networks, there are many relevant terms to learn. Below is a list to help you get started.
Click here to access a full glossary of terms.
For more information on each of these terms, check out our FTTH terminology blog post here.
There are many resources available all across the web to learn more about FTTH technology.
The Fiber Broadband Association is a member-led organization founded in 2001 that provides FTTH-specific advocacy, education, and resources. The aim of the association is to equip organizations, companies, and communities with the tools they need to deploy fiber networks successfully. To access the full scope of available resources, you must become a member of the organization or create a guest account.
The Fiber Optic Association offers in-depth technical information, installation guides, and case studies on successful FTTH deployment. The site also describes what certifications are needed by fiber optics professionals for FTTH installations and provides a summary of FOA-approved training programs. On the site, you can also find textbook recommendations and instructional videos that help field technicians build their knowledge and skills.
Material sciences global leader, Corning, also provides a number of resources and tools for network developers who are interested in designing and deploying FTTH networks. For over 150 years, the company has played a major role in the evolution of the glass science space, which has paved the way for fiber optic’s relevance in today’s world. Visit the company’s website to purchase fiber network materials and read helpful case studies on past FTTH developments.
There are several ways to design a FTTH network.
The following are the most common types of FTTH network architectures:
Centralized split architectures provide flexibility for managing subscribers and connected equipment. This approach relies on the use of single-stage splitters and is especially valuable for initial deployments. Typically, this deployment type uses 1x32 splitters that connect to a central office on one side and individual fibers on the other.
The primary downsides of centralized split architectures are that they can be costly to deploy on a per-home basis and may take longer to set up than other design types.
The distributed split approach uses cascading stages in order to split fibers at different junctures. For example, you may run a cable from the central office into a 1x8 splitter instead of a 1x32 splitter. From here, eight cables will then run through 1x4 splitters, thus creating 32 unique fiber routes without using nearly as much material.
Compared to centralized split architectures, distributed splits are less costly from a labor and cabling standpoint. On the downside, they are less flexible and don’t accommodate growth as easily.
When it comes to splicing, star architectures are especially efficient. The approach relies on pre-terminated cabling and multi-port terminals in order to avoid splicing at certain distribution points. Star architectures can be combined with centralized and distributed split architectures.
One major benefit of star architectures is that they tend to be less expensive on the materials front. However, additional labor costs may be incurred for initial deployments.
With daisy-chaining, network developers connect one cable through multiple fiber access terminals. Daisy-chaining is fast and can also be used in conjunction with centralized and distributed split architectures.
This approach is cost-efficient, both from a labor and materials standpoint. On the downside, network deployment may require specialized splicing, which can increase costs.
Your architecture type decision should take into account how you want to deploy capital (labor vs. materials), the skill of your labor force, and the characteristics of the local geography.
One of the biggest factors to consider is the density of your customer base. Typically, distributed split architectures are best for urban environments where you may need to scale rapidly to meet demand. In rural areas, centralized split architectures tend to be the most cost effective.
Once you’ve designed a FTTH network, you need to evaluate it in a number of ways before committing to deployment.
On the financial front, there are many different calculations that you can do to pressure test your design from several angles:
Your total deployment cost should include both your labor and material expenses. Fiber architectures can differ widely depending on your needs and the local geography. For example, if you plan to use daisy-chaining throughout your network, you will incur higher labor costs as a result of the specialized splicing required.
It’s also important to calculate how much initial CapEx you plan to deploy relative to your subscriber connection costs. Cutting costs on the front end could mean additional expenses on the back end, a trade that may not be worth your while.
In order to calculate your ROI, you need a firm understanding of your lifetime operational costs and subscriber revenues. Although this may seem obvious, carefully model your cash flows to ensure you can recoup your initial CapEx investment and cover new subscriber fees while your network expands.
Use the following questions to guide your thinking:
On the implementation side, consider:
Much of your labor spend will depend on the skill set of your technicians and the design of your FTTH network. Make sure that your field technicians have the knowledge and skills necessary to execute a deployment strategy before committing any finances to the project.
It’s also critical that you can build your FTTH network and connect subscribers quickly. Competition across markets will continue to increase with rising internet demands. Therefore, being able to scale efficiently will help you stay in front of other network developers and generate cash flow early.
You must also take a forward-looking approach to your network and consider how it will integrate with future technologies. Not only should you provide services that are relevant today, but you also need to be ready for tomorrow’s innovations.
Here are a few additional questions to consider on the operating side:
Although it’s impossible to predict the outcome of every variable related to your network’s deployment, answering these questions will help you evaluate your design before making costly capital investments.
Beyond evaluating the design of your FTTH network, there are other high-level factors to consider before deploying the network:
You can either build your network internally or outsource the work to a third-party designer.
Although it may be more cost effective to manage the work internally, an unskilled labor force and poor deployment could result in a network that performs poorly - a must-avoid outcome. Provide high-quality training to your technicians or pay a premium for an outsourced partner that will get the job done right.
If you can, take advantage of already-installed cables and components as this will save you labor and material costs. Be sure that your hardware can integrate seamlessly with the existing infrastructure, should you choose to go this route. Otherwise, you may end up spending more to amend connectivity issues.
Whenever possible, use the same components when deploying fiber networks. Gain economies of scale by deploying the same network elements across all of your projects. Additionally, standardize training for all of your network technicians and ensure that every development is executed using the same processes.
It’s also possible that another network developer will want to purchase your infrastructure in the future. The resale value of your FTTH network depends heavily on how easily it can be integrated into another network.
On the other hand, you may also want to purchase someone else’s network. In this case, you must perform a thorough evaluation of their components and infrastructure before moving forward with any integration.
Before deploying a network, it’s important to know the government regulations around FTTH developments. Regulations can differ across municipalities and countries.
You need to know which documents, permits, and easements are required in your region. If you want to install cable in the ground, you may need a “Certificate of Public Convenience” before you can begin working. Some entities enforce a “Dig Once” policy in order to prevent developers from constantly uprooting up the same areas to install additional cable. For projects involving aerial fiber, you may have to obtain a “Pole Attachment Agreement.”
Your designers should also understand local fiber optic codes and standards as these impact which materials you can use. In the U.S., cabling standards are set by TIA or Telcordia. However, internationally, standards may be issued by ITU or ISO/IEC.
You may also need sign-offs from local professional engineers and cooperation from local organizations in order to gain access to their properties. Public installations may also require supervision from local authorities that can provide on-site support, such as traffic management or police supervision.
After you’ve deployed your FTTH network, you must be able to evaluate its performance.
Keeping tabs on all of your network’s elements can be extremely challenging, especially as you grow to serve new clients. Without a comprehensive platform to consolidate network data in one place, you can’t effectively monitor current operations or plan for future growth.
OSPInsight helps network operators plan, design, and run fiber optic networks through a powerful software platform. With OSPInsight, maintain organized fiber data records, plan and design expansive networks, and conduct robust analyses on network performance in real time.
If you are preparing to deploy a FTTH network, contact our team today to learn more about how our fiber network management software can support your fiber developments over the long term.