FTTH - Customer Premises Installation
Installing a FTTH network is mostly straightforward fiber installation with some additional components like splitters, an ONT and associated hardware at the customer premises that need to be considered. It's when you get closer to the customer premises that things change. Concerns go from laying cable, splicing and installing/provisioning networking equipment to the issues of getting the PON connection to the customer premises and connecting customer devices - while making a positive impression on the customer.
There are issues we have already dealt with in the FTTx section on MDUs involving how to design and install the PON components inside a building with multiple premises. But besides the building installation issues, there are issues when bringing the connection into the customer premises, issues that are similar to those encountered in installing to single family residences. That will be our focus in this section.
Verizon FiOS installation, from Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper
Besides the issues of how to physically make the connections, there are important issues dealing with the customer that are probably the single most important part of satisfying the customer. Those issues go beyond figuring out how to make the installation work, it includes dealing with the customer directly, making the installation neat and ensuring that all services work properly.
Dealing with the customer
First impressions count - and are lasting impressions. Personnel doing customer premises installation must 1) dress neatly (preferably in logo shirts or uniforms for the service) and stay clean, 2) have identification (picture ID preferably), 3) be friendly and courteous (remember you are a guest in someone's home), 4) show respect for the customer's premises and 5) minimize the disruptions and modifications that may need to be made. Even the tech's vehicle needs to look professional and identify it as a company vehicle.
After the greeting and first impression, it's necessary to inspect the premises to determine where to install the ONT, the proper way to bring in the cables and how to make connections to the customer's equipment. Remember that practically every installation is unique (although there may be similarities in MDU or subdivision layouts) and every customer will have opinions on where and how to install connections.
Know Local Codes
One must never forget that installing service in the customer premises must follow local building and electrical codes. This includes location of cables and services, avoiding electrical service, sprinklers, invisible pet fences, etc. where installed, etc. All customer premises techs need some training on these codes and know how to follow them in every installation.
Providing A Variety Of Services
Installations may involve installation of phone, Internet and TV services or some combination thereof. Some providers may also offer installation for home networks, security systems, home theater, etc. The work order for the installation will tell the tech what services have been ordered but it's important to check with the customer what services they are expecting before deciding how to proceed with the installation.
Connections to the ONT will be determined by the location chosen for the ONT. The connection to the customer's equipment for Internet service will depend on what the customer currently has installed or what they want to have after the FTTH installation. The ONT will provide for a copper cable connection (Cat 5e/6) and/or wireless (WiFi). The simplest installation could involve connecting the ONT by cable to the customer computer. If the customer has several computers or mobile devices, there is a need for a router and/or wireless access point that will be connected to the ONT. Some homes may have wired networks connected to a switch that will be connected into the ONT/router.
Some, perhaps many, premises will no longer have landline phones because the residents have converted to mobile phones and abandoned landlines. But others still have a landline connected into the home phone wiring system. Some users will still have POTS (plain old telephone service using analog connections on a current loop) while others may have been using DSL or VoIP connections. DSL will be replaced by the FTTH connection, of course, and VoIP will be connected into the Internet router provided with the FTTH connection.
Customers ordering TV service may be current users of broadcast TV only, cable or satellite TV. Others, and a growing group, may be OTT (over the top) users who get their TV signals over the Internet using devices like ROKU, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc. Connections for TV may include using the customer's current cable or running coax cable for the TV. OTT users will connect over the Internet, generally using WiFi.
Installing Cable And Hardware
The final cable to the customer premises is called the drop cable. This connection may be aerial, underground in conduit or direct-buried through the customer's yard.
Aerial cable may be self-supporting or lashed to a messenger other cables (CATV coax or telephone) that come into the house. The cable must be properly supported and anchored at the house to withstand typical weather conditions (wind, rain, ice and snow.) In some homes, entering through the attic and going down inside walls may be the least disruptive installation.
Aerial drop with prefab drop cable connections
Underground conduit to pull the cable to the house may be available in developments that planned for FTTH already or other cable may be pulled out of existing conduit and replaced by the fiber optic drop cable.
Underground drop with prefab drop cable connections
If the cable needs to be buried in the customer lawn, the installer or installation crew needs to work with the customer to find an acceptable route and locate services coming to the house first to prevent digging up current services. Buried cable requires more time and (especially) care to minimize the damage to the customer's lawn. Often running alongside a driveway or walk helps minimize damage.
All installations require cable(s) to enter the house at some point. The installer should try to find locations where current services enter the house and use those locations as they are generally more accessible and acceptable to the customer. Where cables enter the house or where the ONT is installed outdoors must be protected and sealed to prevent moisture (or creatures) entering the house.
Drop cables may be pre-terminated and ready to connect to the ONT or require connections on the ONT end and splicing or connecting on the service provider end. The method will generally be chosen by the service provider based on their assessment of the best and fastest method of installation. Installers must be trained in the proper splicing and termination processes to be used in the installation.
The ONT is the equipment that connects the home to the PON network and provides the electronics for conversion to phone, Internet (Ethernet is the protocol) and TV signals. The first concern is where to locate the ONT. Typical locations will be on the outside of the house, inside a garage or inside a room in the house. Sometimes the location is determined by the service provider, determined by where the incoming cable connection needs to run but the customer may have options, especially as to the location indoors. If the customer already has Internet (CATV cable modem or phone company DSL), the indoor ONT should generally be placed at the same location to take advantage of any current cables.
ONT mounted on an outside wall
Some houses have been built Internet/FTTH ready and have a place indoors already set for the ONT, and, conveniently, have all cables ready to connect. Then the installer only needs to bring the fiber into the house and terminate it, install the ONT and backup power and connect services. Where the ONT is installed indoors, adequate space is required for it and a source of AC power needs to be nearby. If backup power is provided, space for the backup power supply if it is a separate unit is needed. Some ONTs include backup power inside the unit.
ONT indoors in a high tech home with a wiring panel and room for the ONT and backup power
If the ONT is located outdoors, the connections into the home will be the connections to the customer's equipment. If the ONT is located indoors, the installer will have to bring a fiber cable inside the house to the location of the ONT. Either way, connections will need to penetrate the outside wall of the house. Great care must be taken to avoid other services when drilling holes and the penetration must be properly sealed.
Cabling To User Equipment
The ONT provides cable connection to phones (POTS) and the Internet (Ethrent) over modular jacks for unshielded twisted pair copper cables and to the TV with coax cable. Ideally, the location of the ONT will be where earlier service provider equipment was located and current customer cables are available at that point. If not, it may be necessary to install new copper cables
Cabling Inside The House
The first thing to remember about cabling inside the house is to keep the customer informed and involved in the process. People are very sensitive when installers start poking holes in their walls and snaking cables. Always tell the customer what you are doing and why. Always get their input on where to locate equipment and cables and where to penetrate walls, floors or ceilings.
Manufacturers like 3M have solutions to make cable installs inside the customer premises simpler and easier - and almost invisible
Always be neat and clean up after your work.
Training The Customer
After the installation of hardware is complete and your services are installed, show the customer what you have done and train them on how to use the services you have installed. This should include a demonstration of the phone, Internet service and TV. Show them the instruction materials and how to contact customer service. Instruct them on the Internet connection, speed testing, email services, and the service provider gateway. For the TV, instruct them on the use of the remote, gateway services, channel selection, etc. If you provide a multi-gadget remote, program it for their TV, DVR/VCR, DVD player for them if you can.
Above all, make sure they know how to contact customer service so be certain that information is easy to find in the materials you leave them.
Finish your cleanup and wish them happy use of the system before you leave.
- Technical Information on FTTX From The FOA Online Reference Guide:
Testing FTTH Networks
- FTTH Architectures, MDUs (Multiple Dwelling Units)
- FTTH PON Protocols
- FTTH Installation
- Customer Premises Installation
- FTTx Online Tutorial
- Here's links for more information on FTTx
Case Studies: Do-It-Yourself FTTH
Fiber U Online FTTx Self Study Program (free)
- Training & Certification
- FOA Certification Overview
FOA FTTx Certification Requirements
FOA-Approved Training Programs
Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics