BROADBAND ARTICLE SERIES -
The Last 100 Yards
© Copyright 2001-2011 Landlord.com
Last 100 Yards
By A.J. “Tony” DeBella
© 2001, A.J. “Tony” DeBella
The true promise – and value – of the Internet has always been a function of
one basic factor: Speed. Simply stated, the faster data can be transmitted over
the wire, the greater the Net’s potential for business, entertainment, and
for speed has traditionally caused attention to focus on designing and
installing broadband infrastructure for what is known as the “last mile.”
This phrase refers to the distance between the point of presence, or POP, which
is the physical location of the phone company providing the service, and the end
there is a portion of this last mile that has emerged as perhaps the most
difficult – but certainly most essential – segment: the last 100 yards.
While running fiber optic cabling to the front door of a building is clearly a
necessary first step toward delivering the benefits of broadband connectivity,
the true payoff is effective delivery into the individual office suites and to
the desktops of individual users.
100 yards has always been troublesome. Most buildings still have what are called
“plain old telephone systems” (POTS), which utilize old-fashioned twisted
copper wires – the so-called “gray cabling” that has long constituted the
structural wiring. The problem is that these systems cannot accommodate the
demands of broadband connectivity; they just are not big enough for the data to
flow through. You end up with a lot of frustrated business people wasting their
time at computers, waiting for simple documents, e-mails, or graphics to come up
on their screens.
firms responded to the challenges presented by this older system by developing
what are called “smart buildings.” These properties have a large, high-speed
fiber optic infrastructure installed, commonly referred to as a fat pipe.
It runs through a multiplexer inside the structure. The multiplexer splits the
single line into separate lines for broadband multimedia, i.e., voice, data, and
video, which, in turn, enables service to be delivered to each individual user
on every floor. By providing a broader bandwidth the fat pipe allows more
information to be transmitted over a single line, faster than before, with
greater image fidelity.
four steps in the delivery of high-speed broadband connectivity over the last
100 yards. The first, mentioned earlier, is getting wire to the front door of
the building. The second is getting the wire from the front door to the main
telephone closet (MTC). The third is getting it from the MTC to the intermediate
telephone closets (ITCs), which are located on each floor and serve every user
in every space on that floor. And the fourth is getting it from the ITC to the
customer-premise equipment (CPE), i.e., the desktop computer.
100 yards starts at the MTC and ends at the CPE. The fat pipe runs from the main
telephone closet to the intermediate telephone closet through the property’s
backbone, or riser. In many cases, the existing backbone riser may be large
enough to effectively route cable throughout the building. In others, however,
the riser’s size may have to be increased in order to accommodate the fiber
optic cable needed to assure the right bandwidth. In still others, where the
existing infrastructure is just not adequate, a new riser pipe will be
us to a critical point: future-proofing your building.
secret that technology changes by the day. What may be the best new thing today
may be yesterday’s news tomorrow. When designing a building, or making
determinations about how to upfit existing structures, it is important to plan
example, an existing riser that supports the last 100 yards might well be
sufficient to satisfy current broadband demands, but does it leave you with the
flexibility to grow or expand in the future? Does your infrastructure provide
the adaptability to accommodate likely future communications technologies that
businesses may not be able to do without? Do you want to roll the dice, gambling
that what you have now will be what you need down the road?
The key to
making the right decisions is to align yourself with suppliers, vendors, and
partners who understand the technology and infrastructure of your specific
industry. There are firms that specialize in large, skyscraper Class A
buildings, and others that specialize in smaller Class B and C buildings. They
know the connectivity issues involved in the last 100 yards, and they know how
to address them. The value of an alliance with experts cannot be stressed
In the end,
the true potential of high-speed broadband connectivity can be found in the last
100 yards. The reason is simple: this is where the technology meets the
customer, client, or tenant. It’s a little like running a race. You can do
everything necessary to get yourself in a position to win when the last mile
comes along. But you won’t win if you aren’t prepared to sprint the
last 100 yards.
Questions and Answers.
Does all this apply to my
Of course. Even though the
structure of commercial and residential building is nearly the same,
multi-tenant residential buildings have a greater need for Internet delivery to
individual apartments. Bridging the last 100 yard gap allows your tenants to
receive superior Internet access that feeds directly into their computer
systems. And broadband benefits for property owners include stabilized tenant
rates, increased property values, and opportunities to attract higher rents.
Suppose I decide not to go the last
100 yards and rely on my POTS, what would be the difference in performance
achievable in my building, compared with one that is upgraded to fiber optic
It reduces the speed of your
Internet connectivity, thus reducing productivity, because tenants, customers,
will waste time waiting for documents and websites to open up. It would
literally defeat the purpose of wiring a building.
If I decide to upgrade my building,
about how much will it cost per unit to do it, $5, $500, $5000?
Depending on the fiber count, costs
range from $1,500 to $2,000 per floor in labor and materials. For example,
a 50-story building could cost from $75,000 to $100,000.
Not all of my tenants may need or
want high-speed broadband connectivity. Does it make economic or
technological sense to wire up some of my units and offer them at a premium and
leave others alone?
One common misconception about
broadband connectivity is that installation and services are fixed costs. In
actuality, the costs are significantly lower because individual tenant networks
have fewer users and the buildings require less overall bandwidth. Beyond that,
remember that broadband is “future-proof,” and as technology and Internet
applications rapidly increase, so will your tenants’ need and demand for
How, specifically, should I go
about selecting a contractor to upgrade my building? What should I look
for? Is there a trade association like, say, roofers, plumbers, and
- When considering broadband access,
building owners should look for three characteristics: experience, geographic
reach, and risk level. Make sure that your contractor has experience, not only
in the installation and design of advanced systems, but also experience with
your kind of building. Second, because most vendors are located in big cities,
subcontractors, not the selected contractor, often complete jobs that are in
rural areas, so you may not be getting the skill, expertise and understanding
you think you’re paying for. And reduce any risk by seeking out
contractors that have been certified by partners for specific functions such as
cabling, fiber optic network installation, etc., and be sure to get written
guarantees that the work meets or exceeds industry standards.
You haven’t said anything about
maintenance. What kind of maintenance does the kind of system you describe
require, what is likely to go wrong with it and how often, and how much does
maintenance and repair cost as compared with other building systems?
Mean time between failures is almost
0% (the system is up and running 99.9%). Depending on your building’s system
configuration, repair labor can run between $75-$100 an hour plus materials.
FOR COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
FOR RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS
– THE LAST 100 YARDS