Google Fiber says microtrenching, self-installation will enhance network installation

Google Fiber (Google)
Fueling McCray's confidence to expand FTTH service into new cities is an array of new fiber installation techniques like microtrenching and self-installation

Now that Greg McCray has settled in as the CEO of Google Fiber, the upstart broadband provider told attendees during this week’s Fiber Connect 2017 show it will focus on using new techniques to reduce installation timelines and trim costs. 

McCray, who has been at the helm of Google Fiber for three months, said that 60-70% of its new customers are buying broadband pipes to access the internet and video content.

"We've seen a big rise, just in the last few months, of people choosing just our internet-only offering, just wanting 1,000 megabits then they will choose their own over-the-top streaming services where they can personalize and package it to their viewing, their entertainment needs," said McCray, according to a UBB 2020 report. "There's a definite trend that consumers want to be able to pick and choose and package things and not be told by service providers how to do it.”

McCray added that the internet-only purchases indicate that OTT video will be the more dominant viewing mode.

RELATED: Google Fiber lights up service on Huntsville, Alabama’s, open access fiber network

“We're always going to offer what our consumers want and we already have a linear TV offering, but I expect we're going to see over-the-top be a much bigger player and I think that's good for consumers and that will help manage cost of video content a lot better,” McCray said.

Fueling McCray's confidence to expand FTTH service into new cities is an array of new fiber installation techniques like microtrenching and self-installation.

Microtrenching, which has been long used in Europe and by utility providers, allows Google Fiber and other providers to carve shallow grooves in the ground to deploy fiber. Leveraging solutions from vendors like Ditch Witch or Vermeer, the microtrencher has a blade that makes a narrow cut between the road and the curb. Another machine is then used to vacuum the dirt.

By using microtrenching techniques, McCray said that it can avoid having to rent access to existing utility poles while causing less pain for local residents.

"We've been working with our fiber cities, with the communities and city managers, getting permits and trials much, much, much faster and with a lot less disruption to the neighborhoods and communities,” McCray said.

Wireless also continues to be a factor. The service provider continues to examine the use of broadband wireless technologies it developed and acquired from its purchase of Webpass in existing FTTH locations. However, he did not indicate the timeline for using wireless technology.

Finally, Google Fiber is looking at self-installation methods that could reduce the time a technician spends at a customer’s home. Self-installation not only enables the customer to speed up service turn up, but also cuts costs.

"We're in a competitive over-building environment and we need to come up with some newer techniques—and we are,” McCray said. “That's what we're attacking, and we're experimenting in different markets for cost-reduction, speed and less disruption to the community."

Another way that Google Fiber could scale the network is to continue to work with community partners that have already installed last mile fiber facilities.

In Huntsville, Alabama, Google Fiber is renting dark fiber facilities on Huntsville Utilities’ open access network. Huntsville Utilities owns the planned dark fiber network and is leasing it to Google Fiber, which in turn will connect customers to a FTTH internet service.

Late last month, Google Fiber began inviting customers in Huntsville, Alabama, to sign up for its 1 Gbps FTTH service, leveraging the city’s own middle mile network infrastructure.