The Real Costs of Fiber to the Desktop

Network planners often choose copper cabling for their LAN infrastructure because they think it is less expensive than fiber. But is it? The TIA Fiber Optics Tech Consortium offers an interactive tool that compares the price of various standards-compliant LAN architectures, including the installed first costs of both fiber and copper media. It also allows you to input your own data to get the most accurate comparisons. Here’s a closer look at how the tool can help you find a model that will best suit your installation

Choose Your Architecture

Your first step when using the tool is deciding which architecture to review. There are three options you can choose from, depending on your cabling needs:

  • Hierarchical star: Uses CATx cable in the horizontal, and fiber for the riser (or backbone) cabling.
  • Centralized fiber: Also known as fiber to the desktop.
  • Fiber to the telecom enclosure (FTTE): Fiber that runs from the data center to telecom enclosures located on the floor close to user workgroups.

Input Your Variables

The tool enables you to input user density based on your project. For example, if you have a building with eight floors and 48 users per floor, you can model a network that accommodates 384 users. You can also specify Ethernet speed, such as gigabit Ethernet with Power over Ethernet. If you’re incorporating fiber into your existing copper architecture, your cost model will need to include a way to convert Ethernet from fiber to copper. A media converter is one solution that can help you do that.

Compare Costs

The model’s pricing comes from, a technology bidding and purchasing program. It assumes that the current labor rate is $60 per hour.Using the example above, including the gigabit Ethernet and media converters, the model provides the following costs:

Hierarchical star: $238K, or $619 per port
Centralized fiber: $529K, or $1,377 per port
FTTE: $162K, or $423 per port

These numbers suggest that the FTTE architecture is the least expensive. Compared to the hierarchical star, it would enable you to push fiber deeper into your LAN while staying price competitive and eliminating telecom rooms.

Find the Right Fiber

Another consideration for upfront costs is your fiber choice. You can compare three options: bulk fiber with anaerobic adhesive connectors, bulk fiber with pre-polished connectors, and custom pre-terminated fiber.

Using the same example above, if your FTTE layout has runs to two telecom enclosures per floor, you’ll have 16 runs total. If each run is 80 meters long, that’s a total of 1,280 meters of six-fiber plenum distribution cable. In this case, you will have to terminate 16 10GE links, or 32 fibers or 64 connectors.

  • Bulk fiber with anaerobic adhesive: $3,701
    This is assuming that the six-fiber plenum cable costs $2 per meter, and that the labor to install your runs is 30 minutes each ($480 total for installation). The total cost assumes that connectors are $4.94 each and require four minutes of labor per connector.
  • Bulk fiber with pre-polished connectors: $3,897
    In this scenario, connectors cost about $11 each. Labor to pull the cable is the same as above, but labor per connector drops to one minute each.
  • Pre-term fiber: $3,360
    This case assumes you need 16 assemblies at $180 each. Labor to pull the cable is the same as the other options. This model also shows that using pre-terminated fiber can cost about 10 percent less than bulk fiber with field termination.

Maintain a Healthy Network

Besides supporting your LAN infrastructure, fiber also brings many long-term benefits to your network. It can significantly enhance your system’s security, expand bandwidth and extend network reach. Fiber is also future-proof. It has minimal maintenance costs and requires no upgrading. And when you consider the total cost of ownership, the numbers are even more compelling.

To learn more about the benefits of applying fiber to your existing copper infrastructure, download our white paper "Understanding Fiber to the Desktop"
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