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Fiber Optic Installation in 11 Steps: From Design to Activation

Have you ever wondered how you get high-speed internet to your home? Let’s break down the process of fiber optic installation into easy-to-understand steps so you’re well-informed about what goes behind the scenes.   

As a fiber internet provider in California, Race Communications’ installation process is thorough. We pay attention to every detail from the initial research to the final installation. We collaborate closely with local authorities, navigate the design intricacies, and roll up our sleeves for construction. And most importantly for you, we make it easy for you to sign up and get connected.  

Let’s dive into what it takes to install fiber internet and how our team works tirelessly to connect you.

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1. Preliminary Site Survey

Before the tangible work of constructing a fiber network begins, we do a preliminary site survey. A preliminary site survey tailors our installation strategy to the unique characteristics of each community and individual property.   

Our field engineers visit homes and businesses within the project area to conduct these detailed surveys. For example, they systematically visit each property to assess the specific conditions and infrastructure already in place. This hands-on approach allows for a personalized assessment of each potential connection point. 

During these surveys, we consider two primary installation methods

  • Aerial installation involves running fiber optic cables from pole to pole above ground and then to the customer’s property, usually along the same path as existing telephone or power lines. ISPs choose aerial installation if the property already receives utility services (like electricity and phone) overhead and there’s sufficient capacity on existing poles to add fiber optic cables.  
  • Underground installation requires burying fiber optic cables underground, either by trenching to lay the cables directly into the earth or using existing conduit pathways. Underground installation is preferred when existing utilities reach a property like this or in new developments where underground utilities are part of the initial infrastructure planning.  

The choice between aerial and underground installation methods depends on several factors, such as the existing utility infrastructure, local regulations and permits, the physical landscape, and the community’s and individual properties’ specific requirements.

2. Network Design

The Race Communications installation process continues with a detailed network design. It involves several critical considerations

  • Path planning. We chart the course of the fiber optic cables based on our knowledge of the geographical layout and the existing infrastructure to find the most efficient and least intrusive routes.  
  • Sizing. We determine the size of the fiber optic cables. It’s about more than just capacity today but anticipating the community’s future needs. This way, the network can handle increasing data demands without a complete overhaul.  
  • Connection points identification. These are the hubs where individual homes and businesses connect to the broader network. Strategically placing these points is essential for optimizing network performance and accessibility

This design phase is where technology meets topography. Consequently, the network delivers optimal performance, scalability, and resilience. The design is a long process and can take 6-12 months to complete, depending on the area size. 

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3. Pole Licensing and Material Ordering

After designing the network, we need to secure the necessary permissions and materials. Read more information about both of these steps below

  • Pole licensing. Utility poles (for aerial fiber installations) often belong to various entities like power and telephone companies. We negotiate rights and secure licenses to attach fiber cables to these poles. This way, our installations comply with local regulations and respect the rights of existing utilities.  
  • Material ordering. With the design and permission secured, we order the high-quality materials needed to build the fiber network. This includes the fiber optic cables, hardware for attaching cables to poles or laying them underground, and the specialized equipment for splicing and connecting the network. 

4. Make-Ready Work

Before we can bring fiber internet to your doorstep, ISPs need to do a lot of groundwork, particularly with utility poles. This stage, known as ‘make-ready work,’ involves thoroughly evaluating and preparing these poles so they can safely and effectively support new fiber lines.  

The complexity here lies in the myriad of existing services – electricity, telephone, and cable TV, to name a few. Each utility has its own space on the pole, and adding fiber requires careful coordination to maintain service integrity and safety standards.   

Sometimes, this means adjusting the position of existing lines to make room for fiber or even replacing a pole that’s too small or overloaded to accommodate additional lines.  

The cost of make-ready work can account for up to 40% of the project’s budget. This step is labor-intensive, involving multiple utility companies and rigorous compliance with safety regulations.  

5. Strand Installation

With the poles ready, the next step is to install a steel cable, or ‘strand,’ to support the fiber optic cables. 

Technicians in bucket trucks make their way from pole to pole, drilling holes to install bolts that anchor the steel strand firmly in place. Once secured, the strand serves as the backbone for the fiber optic cables, providing the necessary support against environmental factors like wind, rain, and the cables’ weight

6. Lashing Fiber Cable

After technicians install the steel strands on utility poles, they attach the fiber-optic cables. This process, known as lashing, involves binding the fiber cable to the steel strand to remain elevated and secure along the designated path.   

Here’s how it’s done: 

  • Technicians use a cable lasher, a specialized tool. It wraps a wire around the fiber-optic cable and the steel strand, tightly securing them together. 
  • The lashing process begins at one end of the installed strand and progresses along its length.  
  • As the lasher moves, it systematically wraps the wire around the strand and cable, creating a secure bond that can withstand environmental stressors like wind and rain. 

Thanks to lashing, the fiber-optic cable remains in place and protected from physical damage, making the fiber network infrastructure reliable for years to come. 

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7. Adding Splice and Connection Points

As the fiber network takes shape, we introduce splice cases and slack loops. These components play crucial roles in the network’s functionality and resilience. Read more about them below. 

Splice Cases 

These are protective enclosures where individual sections of fiber-optic cable join together. Splicing is a precision task where [a person] fuses the ends of two fiber cables, creating a continuous optical path. The splice case then protects this delicate connection from moisture, dirt, and physical stress. And that’s why fiber internet has such a reliably strong signal. 

Slack Loops 

Extra cable lengths, known as slack loops, are incorporated in strategic locations along the network.   

These serve a dual purpose: 

  • Repair and maintenance. Should a section of the cable be damaged, the slack provides additional fiber that can be used to make repairs without needing to replace an entire segment. 
  • Future expansion. Slack loops allow for adjustments in the network’s layout and connectivity options, accommodating community growth or changes in infrastructure without significant rework. 

Together, splice cases and slack loops are vital for maintaining a high-performance fiber network. This way, we can easily maintain and adapt the network, securing the long-term investment in fiber infrastructure and the continuous delivery of high-speed internet services.

8. Splicing Fiber Segments

Splicing fiber segments involves joining fiber optic strands to form a continuous optical path that can transmit data over long distances without significant signal loss. 

  • Fusion Splicing: The most common method used in building fiber networks. Technicians carefully align the ends of two fiber strands, then use an electric arc to melt them together. The result is a single strand that allows light to pass through with minimal loss or reflection.  
  • Inspection and Protection: After splicing, each connection is inspected with a specialized microscope to ensure the splice is free of defects that could impair signal quality. The splice is then protected with a heat-shrink tube or a special gel and placed in a splice case for further environmental protection. 

Fusion splicing ensures that the network has the highest possible integrity and performance, essential for delivering the fast, reliable internet service customers expect.

9. Engaging Potential Customers

As the fiber network infrastructure takes shape, engaging with potential customers becomes a priority.  

Our approach includes: 

  • Digital marketing, local advertising, and community events to share the benefits of fiber internet, such as speed and reliability. 
  • Personalized communication through direct mail or email for detailed service offerings, pricing, and sign-up instructions. 
  • Virtual town halls introducing fiber internet to new communities. 
  • Active presence on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook for updates and engagement. 

This multifaceted communication strategy is designed to build anticipation and demand, ensuring that as soon as the network is ready, customers are too.

10. Installing Drop Cables

The installation of drop cables connects each customer’s premises directly to the newly laid fiber network. This process involves running a smaller, more flexible fiber optic cable directly to the customer’s home or business from the main line, typically located on the utility pole or in an underground conduit.   

Depending on the existing utilities and the physical layout of the premises, we can install the drop cable aerially from a pole or run underground through a small conduit. Remember, we determine the installation method during the preliminary site survey.  

The drop cable is routed to the building and connected to an external enclosure on the premises’ exterior. This enclosure is the transition point between the outdoor fiber network and the indoor wiring.

11. Installing Electronics and Activating the Network

With the physical fiber connection in place, the next step is to install the necessary electronics to “light” the fiber, transforming it into an active, high-speed internet service.   

This includes: 

  • Optical Network Terminal (ONT). A device installed at the customer’s premises that converts the fiber optic light signals into electrical signals that routers and other devices can understand. It’s the endpoint of the fiber network within the home or business.  
  • Activation. Once the ONT is installed, our technicians program and activate the service. They configure the network to recognize the new connection, assign it an IP address, and deliver internet service.  
  • Network testing. Before considering the installation complete, technicians perform thorough testing to ensure the connection is stable, secure, and performing at the expected speeds.   

Finally, the Race Communications technicians also introduce you to the complementary Race CommandIQ app so you can manage your Wi-Fi network straight from your phone. 

Fiber Optic Installation: Final Thoughts

The fiber network installation demands time, precision, dedication, and advanced engineering. From the initial research and design phases to the complex construction work and meticulous installation of customer drop cables and electronics, every step is executed with a singular goal: to provide a community with reliable, high-speed internet that transforms how they live, work, and play. 

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The Race Communications installation process reflects our commitment to quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction. 

If you’re as excited about joining the future of internet connectivity as we are bringing it to you, we invite you to reach out.  

Whether you’re ready to sign up or simply curious to learn more, submit your inquiry. Let’s welcome the next generation of internet service together.