An underground fiber network at half the cost
Randy Revels, the CTO of RST, explains that the network uses GPON technology like Verizon does in its fiber network, but that it isn’t spliced in as many places like the FIOS network is. In the Verizon network, fiber is spliced together multiple times between the Internet exchange point and the customer’s home. In the RST network, a continuous fused fiber network connected back to the Internet backbone is laid along the routes. When a customer calls and wants to be added to the network, a technician comes out, digs the trenches to the home or business and connect the building to the main fiber line. That means there are fewer connectors and splices in the fiber, which means less gear.
A customer may have to wait two weeks after calling before they get hooked into the network, but this way RST, like Google, only incurs the expense of building out a home when someone is ready to subscribe to the service. For a traditional telco network, the deployment goal was to pass all of the homes in one-go and then install the last few feet and gear when the customer called, but at the back end the network had to be provisioned for all the customers to sign up. That decision has influenced the network design and cost, resulting in more gear costs up front.
But the biggest reduction in cost is new technology put to use on drills used to run the fiber underground. Using a chip and camera inside the drill head, an operator can maneuver the drill underground to avoid obstacles. Because that tech has improved so much and is cheaper, RST has chosen to dig the entire network that way, bypassing aerial fiber strung from telephone poles. This adds security and makes it less repair-prone, but it also helps RST avoid deals with potential competitors and municipalities in order to get on the telephone poles. Even Google???s fiber network in Kansas City hit a bit of a snag when it came to getting its fiber on poles.