What An Outdated Copper Network Really Costs
Buildings are no longer just shells for housing tenants’ technology. Today’s smart buildings are complex pieces of technology themselves, delivering benefits like lower energy consumption and a better tenant experience. But as buildings become smarter, so must network infrastructure.
Historically, communications networks have relied on copper cabling and components to provide the bandwidth and services that tenants need. But copper infrastructure is constrained, both by capacity and by distance. Moreover, as the demand for bandwidth increases, copper infrastructure has to be replaced via a costly and intrusive rip-and-replace upgrade cycle. Aesthetically, too, copper is bulky, and requires cooling systems that reduce available space and add to maintenance costs.
The proliferation of wireless devices — combined with emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 5G — is primed to put unprecedented strain on wired networks. Deloitte reports that the solution is investment in deep fiber: optical fiber networks with highly concentrated cell sites and access points. Without more deep fiber, says Deloitte, carriers will be unable to support the projected fourfold increase in mobile data traffic between 2016 and 2021.
“You don’t install new plumbing to change out a bathroom fixture, and you shouldn’t install new infrastructure to support new services,” Corning Optical Solutions architect Robert Basile said. “A fiber-deep infrastructure ends the rip-and-replace upgrade cycle common with traditional copper networks.”
While it offers low upfront costs, installing traditional copper infrastructure may incur high costs in terms of upkeep, replacement and tenant satisfaction.
Tech-forward project leads are investing in more effective alternatives to copper, like optical fiber. An optical fiber infrastructure provides virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity, ensuring that buildings will meet tenant demands for services and applications many years into the future. With a fiber infrastructure, buildings can increase available leasing space, lower maintenance costs and put themselves on the leading edge of a competitive market for tenants who want the most powerful and scalable digital infrastructure.
“One of our clients came to us with a plan for a large multiuse property,” Basile said. “They were splitting the property between a 200K SF headquarters for a hospitality management company and a new 100K SF guest hotel, plus additional square footage for retail.”
It became clear, Basile said, that a copper infrastructure wouldn’t be able to support the demands of the company’s increasingly mobile workforce, along with surveillance cameras, video walls, data center functions and an expansive WiFi system across the whole campus. The client opted for deep fiber infrastructure to ensure strong wireless connectivity today and a system that can scale with the company for years to come.
Beyond the planning stages, many developers and technology executives are leaving copper behind in favor of optical fiber as they renovate legacy infrastructure. With the need to converge multiple applications and services, such as voice, data and video, for future tenants, developers need to update their infrastructure along with their amenities to remain competitive.
“A landmark skyscraper in the Midwest that was being retrofitted to house a commercial headquarters and retail space came to us because the copper cabling and cable trays in the legacy infrastructure couldn’t meet their connectivity needs,” Basile said. "We laid out a deep fiber upgrade plan for the structure, including a combination of point-to-point and passible optical network that would scale to meet the building's demands in the future."
Corning estimates that the elimination of costly future upgrades provided a savings of up to 40% when compared with a traditional copper network.
Developers who opt for the lower upfront costs of copper may be consigning themselves to a long cycle of tenant complaints, infrastructure tear-outs and upgrades. Choosing deep fiber can not only save maintenance costs in the long run, but can ensure that as as technologies emerge and needs for bandwidth rise, buildings can still offer the future-ready connectivity that tenants demand.
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Corning. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.