This past weekend was a busy one for the residents of Mono County with Mammoth Rocks – Taste of the Sierra, but that did not deter residents from attending our information meeting on Saturday, August 27th. Leading the meeting was CEO, Raul Alcaraz, who took time to explain the various steps of fiber construction. So what goes into building a fiber network? What has RACE been up to since receiving grant approval for the “Gigafy Mono” project.
Step 1: Designing the network. At this stage, we determine the path and size of fiber cables in our network as well as identifying the size and location of connection points (where homes and businesses will hook up to). This is a long process and can take anywhere from 6-12 months to complete depending on the area size.
Step 2: Pole licensing and ordering materials. Utility poles are owned by telephone and power companies. Third party users like RACE must apply and pay a fee to attach. This is also the time we go ahead and order the materials needed for the project.
Step 3: Make-ready. This is one of the most time-consuming and expensive parts of the process accounting for up to 40% of the cost. The make-ready process consists of making room for the new lines on poles, which could involve moving cable TV up, the phone company down, or both. If the pole is too small or too full, it may need to be replaced. Replacing poles is expensive due to the involved process of setting the new pole and transferring all of the phone, TV, and power lines.
Step 4: Hang strand on utility poles. Fiber optic cables need to be supported by a steel cable, or “strand.” Installers in bucket trucks will drill a hole through the pole and install a bolt that attaches the steel strand to the pole. Then they hang the strand on the pole.
Step 5: Lash fiber cable to strand. The fiber-optic cables are attached to the strand by being lashed on with wire. This is done using a cable lasher which is pulled along the length of the fiber cable and strand.
Step 6. Add splice and connection points. Splice cases and slack loops are added at various points along the network. The splice case is where each section of the fiber optic cable is joined together, while the slack loop provides some extra fiber cable to facilitate restoration of service in the event the cable is damaged.
Step 7. Splice fiber segments. To join lengths of fiber together, a technician heats up the ends of the fiber strands and fuses them together to form a single strand.
Step 8: Install drop cables. Once the network backbone is constructed, small fiber cables are connected to the backbone and the customer’s building. These drops can be aerial or in a conduit, depending upon how the customer’s current utilities reach their home.
Step 9: Install electronics and light your network. Specialized electronics are needed at both ends of the fiber-optic cable to “light” the fiber and provide a usable Internet connection. This includes Optical Network Terminal (“ONT”) at the customer’s home or office. ONT’s typically provide multiple places to connect Internet devices and phones. Once the devices are placed, engineers program and activate the service so that it can be connected to your computer or Wi-Fi router.
In the coming weeks, our trucks will be in Crowley Lake and Sunny Slopes and we hope to turn up our first customer by the end of the year!