AT&T says fusion splicing will reduce installation costs, activation time

As AT&T (NYSE: T) expands fiber into more buildings to address its business customers, the service provider sees various installation challenges, particularly in existing buildings where existing conduits may be clogged with existing wiring between office suites.

One of the weapons the provider is taking into the field to tackle the inside wiring issue is fusion splicing.

Simply put, fusion splicing is the process of fusing or welding two fibers together, usually by an electric arc. What's compelling about splicing for AT&T and other providers that are going into existing buildings is that it provides for the lowest loss and least reflectance as well as the strongest and reliable joint between two fibers.

"Our technicians have started doing field fusion splicing," said Rias Muhamed, director of product management for AT&T Business Solutions, in an interview with FierceInstaller. "Typically, they have done more pre-connected fiber where they would take a cable from an Ethernet multiplexer wherever the endpoint is and they all had connectors already connected to them with different cable sizes."

Muhamed added that fusion splicing can also reduce installation time by taking the guesswork on how long of a cable a technician has to use in a building site.

"What we find is a lot of times are you'll have these conduit spaces that are full, so having to pull a connectorized fiber through that takes a lot of space," Muhamed said. "We have enabled them with fusion splicing to not have to pull with the connector, but rather pull the fiber through and they can splice the fiber at the end, which will not only make more installations successful but it also provides a lot of operational efficiencies."

If all of the conditions are right in a building site, AT&T is able to install a customer with fiber-based Ethernet in about one to two weeks.

"We can get fiber services installed in 5-10 days," Muhamed said. "The challenges we run into different buildings is getting from where our equipment is connected to the suite." 

Besides making the connections inside the building, the other issue is being able to get access into a particular building. This means that AT&T has to work with building owners and landlords to get an agreement on when and how they will make an installation.

"Our technicians do as best as they can to wire up as long as the building gives them the permission to do that," Muhamed said. "You may not have the right to pull the wire so we will work cooperatively with them to figure out the mechanics of timing it appropriately to let the riser company do the job on the inside wiring and we go and install our switching equipment."

Having more efficient installation methods on hand comes as AT&T continues to expand its fiber-based Ethernet footprint. Earlier this week, the service provider announced that it will expand its 1 Gbps fiber-based broadband initiative to over 10 markets across its wireline footprint.

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