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FiOS FTTH Install (w/Photos)

I had the Verizon FiOS 15Mb/s FTTH service installed at my home in September. These are my notes from conversations with the techs. If anything here is inaccurate, or you have more interesting data to add, please make a comment.

My home was originally built in 1925 and was undergoing extensive renovations, including landscaping, and as a result the entire front yard was dirt. My copper POTS service and Comcast cable were connected aerially to my home (ugly) and I figured this would be an excellent time to bury the connections in the front yard.

The copper from the pole to my home was still original. I still find it remarkable that the infrastructure installed in 1930 (manually switched phone service) could support nearly 1Mb/s DSL. I wonder if the fiber that Verizon installed will still be in use 75 years from today.

I buried 2 inch conduit from the house to the pole in front of my home, installed a 20 foot riser on the pole. I had a plumber working on the renovation use a very large impact drill to put a 1 1/4 inch hole through the foundation wall. Between the 2 inch conduit run, and the 1 1/4 inch hole I installed a breakout box to assist in line fishing. All materials were PVC and purchases at the local big box hardware store.

My only concern was whether the Verizon (VZ) techs would insist on an aerial drop or if they would use my conduit. I was not concerned about the Comcast coax – I could disconnect it, fish it through the pipe, and re-connect it myself. My stretch goal was to convince the Verizon crew to put the ONU inside my basement, rather than the outside of my house. I had heard they would do this only if requested (the secret is now out).

Two Verizon techs arrived in separate trucks – an ‘inside guy’ (The one who knew what PPPoE meant) and an outside guy who would use the bucket truck and do the aerial work. Both were very friendly. Some interesting tidbits:

  • Neither knew what BPON or GPON meant.
  • They were very knowledgeable about the fiber topology. They went into detail on fiber counts per cable and walked me through exactly how the fiber infrastructure works.
  • There was ALOT of complaining about how they were not allowed to book any overtime, whatsoever. They claimed Verizon paid heavy overtime to get the infrastructure installed, but was very cost sensitive on install costs. While I’m sure the techs didn’t like it, it made perfect financial sense to me. VZ wants to get the plant installed, but if a user has to wait a week or two to get a connection, fine.
  • Neither was aware that Japan and NTT were deploying fiber, and 2MM households were already connected. They both thought this was really exciting, and were going to try and learn more
  • Both were very enthusiastic about FiOS and pretty pumped up to help Verizon do well. They clearly had been educated on Comcast as a competitor, and informed me that they would be doing FiOS TV in 2006.

The outside install went smoothly. The ‘outside’ guy accessed the local drop and identified the specific fiber strand assigned to my home. I believe each of these black cabinets can support up to 8 drops, but the number wired up at each one depends on the density of nearby connections. The local drop cabinets are fed by a big splitter cabinet that is pole mounted about 200 yards away. These can serve anywhere from 64 to 256 homes, again depending on density. The next step was to check received optical power at the local connection point, I scored -16db, well within the -24db BPON spec. All of the fiber and cabinet infrastructure are mounted or zip-tied to the existing copper wire containing the many pairs that feed existing houses. When I pointed this out the tech’s response was classic:

Going forward, the only thing we use the copper for is to hang fiber.

The distance from the local drop, through my conduit, and into the basement was calculated, and they sorted through the pre-connectorized fiber in the truck to find the right length. With one tech pulling the fish line at the breakout box and the other feeding the top of the conduit riser, the fiber was through in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, this is when the problems started.

Before the Verizon guys agreed to use the conduit, they made sure the connector would pass through the 1 1/4 conduit I had installed in the basement wall. We tested this using a 1 foot piece of scrap conduit and we were able to barely pass the connector on the fiber. Barely. However, during installation I pounded the conduit through the hole in the basement wall with a hammer. This was just enough compression on the conduit walls to prevent the connector from passing through. We tried lube and some serious brute force. I tried sanding down the ABS plastic on the connector. No luck. I can attest to the fact the cables are very rugged as we were not gentle. The Verizon techs, after some debate between drilling a new hole in my basement wall and cutting/splicing the fiber decided for the latter. The ‘outside’ guy took off in his truck while the other finished the job. It turned out it was the ‘inside’ guys first field splice of the connectorized cable, and it took him nearly two hours to get it right.

Once that was complete, things wrapped up fast. The ONU came in a big cardboard box complete with enclosure, charger, backup battery, and power cables. They also had a new 4-port wired D-Link hub with a single WAN uplink – you can pay extra for one with WiFi if you request it when you sign up for the service. I had already prepared an area on the basement wall with plywood and power, adjacent to my existing home network. Verizon swapped out my hub for their hub, mounted the ONU and accessories, and measured the optical power at the ONU (still -16dB). He connected the optical cable and all the right LED’s lit up. Then, the single POTS line in my home was cut and connected to the ONU. The tech was speaking with someone on the phone and giving them instructions to reprovision certain things (i.e. kill the DSL account, turn on FIOS, move the POTS, etc.) as all of this was taking place.

We ran the Verizon supplied setup utilities on one of my home PCs to configure the D-Link and optimize the PC’s Ethernet hardware settings. The functionality of the box is comparable with other routers I’ve seen. Two weeks later, with the new infrastructure functioning perfectly, I got up on the roof and the utility pole and cut down the copper pair that had served the home well for over 75 years. Moving the cable line into the conduit went without a hitch. Everything has been running smooth since then.

Overall, the installation was smooth. The issue with the conduit was my own. The Verizon techs were well informed in the areas that mattered. The inside tech was relatively knowledgeable about the D-Link settings and provided my with the IP address and default username/pw, even though the Verizon setup software masks this complexity from most users. The migration of the POTS line was seamless. The noise that used to exist on the line (likely due to the outdated plant) is gone. The line is wicked fast – particularly in the upstream direction when compared with my old DSL line.

Discussion

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  1. Found your site on Digg… I can’t wait for FIOS to come to the Chicago Area… who knows how long it will be.

    Posted by Wayne Dixon | December 6, 2005, 11:03 PM
  2. Isn’t Chicago’s ILEC SBC? If Verizon isn’t there now, it likely won’t ever have a chance of FiOS from Verizon.

    Posted by Chris | December 7, 2005, 3:07 PM
  3. Check this out, I think you will like it.

    http://www.fioslive.com/forums/index.php/topic,65.0.html

    [Editor – Link is to a very slick MDU Install….]

    Posted by FiOS Installer | December 29, 2005, 1:47 PM
  4. Do you know if there is any protection for the service?
    Is there only one fiber coming into the ONU?

    Posted by Rao | January 17, 2006, 5:10 PM
  5. There is a battery backup in case of power loss. There is only one fiber connection, it is not 1 1. Your existing phone or DSL service isn’t any different

    Posted by Andrew Schmitt | January 17, 2006, 5:14 PM
  6. Andrew,

    It is fascinating how much labor goes into the install. I had the same installation performed at my house several months ago.

    However… I ended up switching back to Comcast!

    The reason is that there is no optimization for TCP (that is what I am guessing the software they install on your PC is supposed to do) and the performance of FIOS (at least here in Winchester) has a fairly high delay. As a result, the TCP performance experienced on Mac OS X is somewhat underwhelming. Loading the web page sign in for yahoo! mail took about a minute, for instance.

    Surely this is a problem that can be fixed deeper into the network at the BRAS or deeper. I suspect that for the majority of today’s applications, the added delay doesn’t matter. However, I will note that I am using Vonage as my phone service, and its performance audibly degraded with FiOS. Once I went back to Comcast, things were better.

    I largely agree with you wrt the advantage of Verizon’s FiOS infrastructure. However, it does not appear (to me, at least) that they have all the bugs worked out at this time.

    One other note… my friend who moved back from Japan a year ago had the 20Mbps NTT fiber to the apartment service. I asked him, “so what’s the difference?” He said, “there is no difference – there isn’t a killer app”. Just like you yourself noted…

    Albert

    Posted by Albert Lew | August 21, 2006, 8:57 PM
  7. The above comment was useful, given my recent conversion to Comcast’s VoIP (skywing?). Only difference is an intermittent and slight echo. Internet service is blazing fast on OSX (the new “powerboost” actually seems to work).

    Have been begging for FIOS, but no one at Verizon–or on the ubiquitous Verizon trucks–knows when it will be available in my Manchester Field area.

    Mostly I was after the cost savings, which Comcast politely delivered (something like $69/mo for basic cable/VoIP/internet for one year) upon request (and adoption of VoIP, as noted). Better to take the incentive now, given that Comcast intends to “get out of the cable telephone business”).

    Standalone VoIP cost is twice that of Vonage, but I hear that Comcast either deliberately downgrades competitors AND/OR there is something to their claim of superior, proprietary VoIP service (whether a separate network or prioritized traffic or whatever).

    In any case–Andrew gets FIOS way back in ’05; here it is almost September ’06 and service remains unavailable in other parts of Winchester (and, according to the map, mere blocks away).

    Posted by David | August 25, 2006, 2:06 PM
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