Cost of Optical Fiber Versus Kite String

Quote of the Day

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.

— West African proverb

Figure 1: Example of a Multi-Fiber Cable.

Figure 1: Example of a Multi-Fiber Cable.

I try to help customers develop some perspective as to the cost of deploying fiber optic cable. Each cable can carry multiple fibers (see Figure 1). Customers will frequently ask about the incremental cost of adding an additional fiber to a cable they are about to deploy, which is often called the marginal cost of a fiber. While I cannot tell you specific costs of different fiber optic cables because of confidentiality restrictions, the following quote from this document will give you a rough idea of the marginal cost of adding a fiber to a cable.

Some communications providers have excess fiber strands. Fiber count in cables ranges from 6 to 24 near residences and individual businesses to more than 1,000 on backbone routes. The cost of a 6-count fiber cable is $2,000 per mile, while an 864-count cable is $50,000 per mile, implying a marginal cost of approximately $50 per fiber per mile. Actual costs for fiber purchase or lease, of course, reflect market costs and depend on the total availability of fiber over the route–and are thus, typically, considerably higher; however, fiber lease or purchase may be a serious consideration over routes where construction is difficult or costly and considerable fiber has already been installed (e.g., river crossings, tunnels).

I tell customers that they should make sure they have plenty of fiber in a cable when it is deployed because adding it later is much more expensive (i.e. you need to put in another cable).

$50 per mile for optical fiber is very cheap. To illustrate just how cheap $50 per mile is, I show customers that kite string actually costs more per mile than fiber optic cable with the following link. This link shows that kit string costs $5.38 per 500 ft (Figure 2) or about $54 per mile, which is more than optical fiber.

Figure 2: Kite String Cost.

Figure 2: Kite String Cost.

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