TIA Fiber Optics LAN Section updates infrastructure cost model

June 6, 2005 - The revised model focuses on installed first costs, which the FOLS's vice chair describes as 'so critical to end users.'

After nearly two years of research and development, the Fiber Optics LAN Section (FOLS--www.fols.org) of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has released its third-generation interactive cost model for estimating local area network (LAN) infrastructure costs. The new model takes a broader scope, focusing on the support of converged networks. It also features a simplified user interface to make it easier for users to understand and customize the tool. As with previous generations of the model, the results of the comparisons will depend on the users' unique input. However, when using the sample scenarios, the installed first costs of fiber-based solutions are shown to be either less expensive, or within 5% of the installed first costs of the traditional combined fiber backbone and unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) horizontal architecture.

The interactive cost model is posted on the FOLS Web site as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. A comprehensive supporting document explaining the various scenarios and providing detailed instructions for the model's use also is available on the site. Users can download both documents at no cost.

According to Gary Cawley, FOLS chair, FOLS members redesigned the cost model to better reflect current market conditions. "Since our second-generation model was released in late 2003, new standards have been released which make the fiber-to-the-telecom-enclosure architecture standards compliant, plus the costs for fiber electronics are lower," he said. "The combination of these factors is changing the way customer-owned networks are designed because they have changed the installed first costs associated with building network infrastructure. When you look at the costs today, the case for deploying fiber is compelling."

The model compares the costs of a horizontal star architecture (UTP horizontal with a fiber riser backbone) to three all-fiber architectures: centralized cabling (also called "collapsed backbone"), fiber-to-the-telecom-enclosure (FTTE) low density, and FTTE high density.

Rather than updating the second generation of the model, FOLS members designed the new model from the ground up. Changes of particular note include the following.
*Focus on network switches that enable converged network performance
*Inclusion of the new FTTE architecture, as it offers users a cost-effective and flexible network solution
*Comparison of standards-compliant architectures
*The ability to create a completely customized comparison
*Simplified user interface, incorporating dropdown menus to allow choices
*Use of aggregate pricing data derived from publicly accessible databases such as www.peppm.org, an education and technology bidding program. In all cases, the pricing used in the model represents an average price taken from at least three different manufacturers.

"Many people know that optical fiber offers several benefits over the life of a network, such as reduced maintenance costs, ease of upgrading, and reduced downtime," said Dan Harman, section vice chair. "But the model developed looks specifically at installed first costs. Lower lifecycle costs are an important benefit of deploying fiber, but they are also more difficult to quantify. We felt that installed first costs were so critical to end users that we wanted to focus on them in the model. Additionally, the model directly dispels the myth that fiber-based networks are always more expensive than copper networks."

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