For low voltage/electrical contractors, multi-housing units represent a great opportunity. According to Statista’s latest research, 402,000 multi-housing units were developed in the United States in 2019, representing an increase of approximately 30,000 units over the prior year. Downsizing Baby Boomers are one of the major drivers for the increase in multi-housing projects. Despite the opportunity, however, poor planning and insufficient cable selection can seriously undermine ROIs, project schedules and key relationships with builder/developers. Knowing upfront the challenges that may be encountered when deploying fiber cable in multi-housing buildings or complexes, and how best to address these challenges, can help assure an efficient, profitable project.
New vs. Existing Buildings
Whether a low-rise project (i.e., townhouses), mid-rise (i.e., two-story apartment building), or high-rise building, multi-housing projects can pose certain challenges. Whereas new construction enables easier access to cable conduits and fiber to the premise (FTTP), existing buildings may present congested cable pathways and inflexible infrastructure. In both new and existing projects, the right cabling solutions is critical.
In bringing fiber to the home (FTTH) in existing multi-housing buildings, optical network terminals may be placed in ground-floor utility spaces, telecommunications rooms, or on each floor. Fiber deployment may be conducted in various ways: by running fiber to each unit, placing optical network terminals in one central location, or placing optical network terminals on each floor. Eighty three percent (83%) of U.S. multi-housing units were constructed before 2000, and 52% were built prior to 1980, before the introduction of fiber networks. It is, therefore, easy to understand why their design does not readily accommodate these networks. This means, installers are likely to encounter various expected and unexpected challenges, including:
- Inability to access building plans or if they are available, they may not reflect any building updates;
- Congested ducts and pathways filled with undocumented cables that may be difficult to remove safely; and
- Curved pathways tight spaces requiring cable to be pulled through complex routes.
A New Fiber Cabling Solution
Bringing fiber cable to the home (FTTH) in multi-family projects demands that the right cabling solution be specified. Up until 2015, contractors had few choices. Conventional Aluminum Interlock Armor (AIA) was typically used. Today, however an innovative alternative exists – TiniFiber® Micro Armor Fiber™ Optic Cable. This U.S. patented, tightly-wrapped stainless steel coil combined with Kevlar®, is 65% smaller and 75% lighter than AIA. It is extremely durable, crushproof, and flexible owing to its tubular coil and armored band radius. Based on its small size, light weight, and durability, TiniFiber® Micro Armor Fiber™ Optic Cable is very adaptable. It delivers a 500% increase in pathway capacity making it ideal for the multi-family project application. It can easily tackle any challenging pathway, whether tight, curved, with risers or bends, etc., and can be installed quickly and easily without any special training. The cables can be pre-terminated for even faster installation. The other advantages gained because of its smaller footprint are substantial savings relating to labor, shipping, and warehousing.
Clearly, multi-housing projects are booming and present an opportunity for contractors. With a full understanding of potential challenges, a strategy to mitigate them, and the right cabling solution, the opportunities can be quite profitable.