The word “fiber optic” in itself can be quite intimidating. It is almost synonymous with progress and sophistication. And why not? They are just that, and a whole lot more.
When we talk about fiber optics, we mean the Internet, telephone and mobile phones, cable televisions, etc. And although they are not exactly synonymous, they are related just like a bolt is to a nut.
Fiber optics consist of strands of glass or plastic fibers so thin that they can be compared to strands of hair so they are thinner and lighter than the copper wire and are non-flammable.
They are so powerful that they can surpass the capabilities of the traditional cables that transmit electronic signals. These fiber optics can transmit light that can carry signals hundreds of times faster than their wired counterpart, they have an extremely high bandwidth, and they have greater reliability because of the electromagnetic interference resistance that typical copper wire cables are prone to.
With this sophistication, can we almost expect a fiber optic cable installation cost as expensive as it sounds? We’ll see.
Average Cost of Fiber Optic Cable Installation
If we are going to talk about the average cost to install fiber optic cables in a house or building, we may not be able to give figures as accurately as possible as different factors play in determining it like how big is the project, how many wires are involved, etc. So we might as well get on a micro scale.
The average fiber optic cable installation cost ranges from $1 to $6 per foot depending on the number of fibers used. That’s a wide range if you ask us if you translate it to the overall cost.
Since we cannot pinpoint the real cost range, let us just use a reference point. It is said that the budget for a building to install the typical cable wires called Cat5/Cat5e with 100 to 200 drops is around $15,000 to $30,000, then expect to spend more than that for fiber optic cables.
In fact, according to a study made in 2009 entitled “Brief Engineering Assessment: Cost estimate for building fiber optics to key anchor institutions” prepared for the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and the Schools, Health, and Libraries Coalition, the national estimated goal per-site cost of large networks serving community anchors such as schools, libraries, and government facilities is at $50,000.
They added that the said cost is limited to areas that have sufficient density which means that a location has to have two or more sites that can be reached per mile of fiber. Also, this is limited to the minimum level of “transport only” networking and may require an additional $25,000 to $50,000 per site to be able to provide added value features.
If we consider the inflation rate, the value of $1 in 2009 is equivalent to $1.14 in 2017. So, the $50,000 in 2009 is equivalent to $57,000 today.
Their small city case study yielded an average fiber cost per site at $26,300 and $38,200 if including electronics. Their equivalents in 2017 are approximately $30,000 and $43,500 respectively.
What are Included
Typical fiber optic cable installation includes the following:
- Labor – according to engineering studies, the bulk of the price of fiber optic installation is in the labor fees. In fact, it is estimated that 50% to 80% of the cost are all attributed to the labor cost.
- Materials – the materials used as well as the number and length of the fiber optics needed for the installation can secondarily impact the overall cost of the installation of the fiber optic cables.
- Miscellaneous materials – all bits and pieces of materials needed to install the fiber optic cables can add up to the overall cost of the project.
- Lease of Machinery – installation would not be possible without the help of machinery and equipment regardless of whether you install an aerial or underground installation, thus can also impact the price.
- Mobilization of Contractors – a lot of things could add up to the mobilization process of the contractors like finalizing the design, ordering of materials, preparation of right of way if necessary, among others.
- The cost to protect existing structures – this is necessary, especially so if installing fiber optic cables for the first time as damage to properties is possible if not properly addressed.
The idea is that every kind of construction requires a permit from the government. And since installing a fiber optic entails some sort of construction, you would not be exempted. And especially if your installation would take place in a state where there are multiple layers of jurisdictions, higher cost would be automatic.
Once the fiber optic cables are installed and ready for use, you may want to purchase network speed tester that works with both fiber and copper cables. This may come in handy in times of troubleshooting.
Shopping for Fiber Optic Cable Installation
If you are looking for a fiber optic cable installer, our tool might help you find the contractor that’s right for you or if you just want to have a ballpark estimate as a reference for future cabling needs.
Factors Affecting Cost of Fiber Optic Cable Installation
You can see a lot of cost drivers in a contractor’s estimates be it in a draft or final version. But we would be explaining some of them, in brief, to give you an idea.
- The size of the building – the size of the area that will be networked by the fiber installation definitely affects how much you will have to pay for the cost.
- Distance from the nearest fiber line – determining if there are available fiber connection in your building can be the biggest factor of how expensive that cost can be because the absence of this makes it more difficult to accomplish because of the work involved.
- Existing conduits within the building – consider yourself lucky if there are already existing or installed conduits that have sufficient space to add fiber in them. This can affect your cost in a positive way as it lowers the cost by saving you from installing new sets of conduits.
- Obstacles – another factor to consider is if there are physical hindrances in the way of your fiber optic installation like if the nearest possible connection happens to be across a state highway, you would incur tremendous amount of additional costs to be able to extend the fiber into your building especially so if you would do underground installation.
- Available space in the telco closets – having an available space on your telco room, or server room if you may is one thing. Having a telco room at all is another thing that would make the installation cost harder to bear.
- The amount of power for additional fiber – having a steady power supply and emergency generators ensure service availability at all times. If both of these are questionable, then installation of additional fiber would be more expensive when coupled with additional fees for additional power capabilities.
- The number of different paths to the building that the fiber cable take – normally, fiber optic cables are installed into a building in two separate entrances, making the second one serving as a backup when the main fiber circuit is cut. The number of backups you intend to install can add up to the overall cost of fiber optic cable installation.
Optical fibers can be single-mode or multi-mode, with the latter having a larger core that transmits more signals per fiber as opposed to the one signal that a single mode can transmit. Multi-mode is used in premises where there are shorter distance applications.
While fiber optic cables tend to have higher upfront cost, it can be more cost-effective in the long run than copper cabling as the cost of floor space, operating power and temperature control that are normal in a copper cabled connections can be eliminated.
Fiber optic cables are widely used in local area network or LAN backbone cabling especially nowadays when the newer applications that are needing high bandwidth increase.