Drops: Splice Them Now or Later?

Building a fiber-optic network comes with a high cost, almost two-thirds of which is labor cost. No surprise, service operators look for ways to reduce expenses and increase ROI without sacrificing quality. The question of where and when to splice seems insignificant but it does affect the bottom line. Is it more cost-saving to install all the drops at construction time since the crews are already out there in the field, or not? Let’s take a look.

For starters, you plan for a known quantity and then consider a calculated growth factor. For example: you are planning to build an FTTH network where 100 homes will be passed. Your estimated take rate is 60%, meaning that 60 of the homes are going to subscribe to your service. The issue is that you don’t know which 60. You always want to design and build your feeder cable as if 100% of the homes will take your service. But the hurdle here is deciding whether to install drops on all 100 homes or not. 

You have several options during the build process, once your mainline distribution are in place: 

  • You could do 100% of the completed network at initial construction and hope that every home you pass will take your service, or
  • You could choose to phase the project:  design the feeder and distribution cable as if 100% of the homes will take the service, and get everything set up and ready. Then, come back and put the drops in at the time service is requested.

Which option is more cost-effective? Many argue that you should go ahead and install all the drops at the time of construction because you already have crews out there in the field. Yet installing 100% of the drops could potentially lead to up to 7% of the total project cost being sunk on homes where they didn’t take your service. That definitely affects the bottom line.

Based on our years of in-field experience as engineers, we have a few recommendations on when and where to splice:

  • Put your money into the mainline. Design and install it as if you are going to have a take rate of 100%. Have everything prepared and ready to go.
  • Do everything customer-related at the time of service. That means that the customer premise – the drop, the ONT, and the equipment – is installed once a customer takes your service.

This strategy results in the portion of your network build being recoverable because you’re putting it in at the time you know you have revenue coming in. On a typical FTTx project, you are not guaranteed to get any specific take rate. Planning ahead and making informed strategic decisions – like splicing them all or not – will give you an ROI advantage.

And if you need a powerful solution to track and see not only individual splicing connections but pedestals, cable strands, hand holes, and panels – right down to the port level – all at once on a map, our CrescentLink Desktop software is engineered just for that and much more. 

Learn more about how to make your broadband project a success, 

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