Rural Telecommunications Development Planning: Aerial Versus Underground.

Underground utilities should be the goal of every community, however the cost of underground construction is variable and expensive! The benefits to buried cable are less maintenance and fewer repairs with proper utility locates. The benefits of an aerial build is in its fast deployment and cheaper cost. In any case, a redundant path or diverse path is optimal. That is, two separate cables converging from different sides into the same building or ring. In this manner, outages due to a cut cable are mitigated because when one side is damaged the other side should still be in operation.

In underground construction, costs for boring can be prohibitive, but in the long run can save money. Boring through rock is time consuming and expensive. And the cost depends on the length and conditions of the site among other factors. The benefits are numerous, fewer network outages, lower costs of maintenance and no impact on line of sight. Boring animals have been known to damage underground cabling but the biggest threat comes from construction equipment above ground.

Areial cables are the easiest and most cost effective way to install fiber optic cable and must be negotiated with whoever controls or owns the poles. However, this type of build can be problematic. Ongoing lease charges for pole space are a factor to consider as are animals. For whatever reason, squirrels, woodpeckers and other critters love to chew on fiber cables and will do so at any opportunity. And hanging cables are a great opportunity for them. An aerial diverse path is, again, the best method for insuring continuity and fewer disruptions of service.

For communities short on resources an Aerial build may be the best way to begin construction. Aerial construction can save time and money and a entire community can be lit up in a short period of time. Planning and budgeting to bring the network underground can and should be the next step since underground is the preferred methodology. Anticipating the need for future growth can also be included in the plan. A “Dig Once” policy should be put into place, taking advantage of any opportunity to install conduit and to piggyback operations with other entities who will be digging. Never underestimate the needs of the future, anticipating growth is the best approach. Twenty years ago, we all thought 12 fibers would enough.

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