I think it’s safe to say that getting permission to build anything takes a lot of time and patience. And you need a lot of both if you are building anything in a major metropolitan area. Recently, we were invited to participate in a field trial to add underground cable routes in a city’s historic district within a dense, urban city center.
It was amazing to see the challenges faced daily by construction crews working there. These big cities are definitely areas where the motto is, “Get in, get out and don’t come back.”
The environment they faced was a hodgepodge of preexisting underground structures over countless city blocks, including water, sewer, gas and underground power lines constructed seemingly without planning more than 100 years ago. Because the city also is located in a low lying coastal area, it has also suffered its share of flooding.
That constant flooding is also causing the current cable infrastructure to deteriorate. The operator requesting the field trial was tasked with a project upgrading its underground infrastructure and ensuring future evolution would be "painless". Given the expense of operating in that environment, they also wanted to ensure future expansions remained “trench free.”
To accomplish this, careful planning had to take place. First, the operator had to fully evaluate its current situation and determine what was required to add immediate cable upgrades. Second, the operator shifted its focus to future deployment and upgrades. For every infrastructure project, this is ultimately the biggest challenge, because we all know the future is the big unknown. The only thing certain about future communication services is that bandwidth requirements will continue to increase at a rapid pace. Naturally, as technology advances so does bandwidth requirements.
Taking these issues into account, the operator made the decision to place dual paths for future fiber along with its current coax upgrade. Lastly, after reviewing the environment, the operator took the additional step to ensure its investment used the ultimate protection—high-density polyethylene (HDPE) conduit. This type of conduit guarantees the plant reliability and quality of service for their customers.
Once the solution was chosen, that’s when the real fun began. Multiple crews began tackling the project—some areas only getting 50 feet of plant installation completed in one day. This project may take six to 12 months to complete, however, one thing is for sure; any future upgrades will not require water/gas line relocation, jack hammering, conduit or even directional boring. It will just require fiber, an air compressor and a hand-held fiber blowing machine. This fiber could feasibly be blown up to 150 feet per minute. When the operator is ready for a future install, having a microduct pathway ensures peace of mind.
CommScope’s E2O™ (Electrical to Optical) solution allows customers to solve this very issue as well as plan for those future unknowns. The ability to take HDPE conduit and preinstall it with coax or fiber today, as well as multiple microducts for future fiber expansion, is what MSOs require for various reasons.
First, by bundling these items in one sheath versus multiple sheaths, they face only one installation. This is important because construction alone can account for 80 percent of the investment. One does not want to pay more than once if they can help it. Secondly, they can achieve greater customer satisfaction by increasing quality of service. Today that need might just be coax; however, two months later it might be fiber. It is this protection and reliability that keeps MSOs in business.
How many times would you want to work in an area that yielded only 50 feet per day in completed work?