Fiber Broadband Association study found varying costs for fiber build labor and materials

Jan. 24, 2024
A yearly study partnered with Cartesian tracks drivers to fiber broadband deployment cost.

As fiber providers plan their fiber network build plans for the coming year, various cost factors must be considered. The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), in partnership with Cartesian, provides a benchmark to evaluate their cost profile and identify areas of inefficiency in its new 2023 Fiber Deployment Cost Study.

One of the key takeaways from the study was that, on average, labor contributed to 73% of underground build costs and 67% of aerial expenses. Also, the study provides regional cost variations and the cost differential between deployment methods.

The 2023 Fiber Deployment Study survey respondents spanned the U.S. and the fiber deployment ecosystem, including network operators, municipal broadband providers, utility/electric cooperatives, prime contractors, and subcontractors. It looked at many factors that influence cost but often make it challenging to compare costs across deployments. This includes cost components like labor, materials, build scenarios, and the choice of construction method.

While no two fiber deployment projects were alike, the study found several common themes, including labor accounts for over two-thirds of build costs; the initial cost per foot for aerial deployment is less than half that of underground, but higher OpEx of aerial negates the cost differential in the long run; and other notable cost influencers like population density, terrain, and region.

As industry players look forward to 2024, many respondents expected overall deployment costs to continue to increase, but several categories were expected to improve. In 2023, 76% of respondents noted cost increases in materials, but only 58% expected materials cost to increase in 2024. Additionally, most respondents expected engineering and permit costs to decrease in 2024.

“As broadband providers across the country look to leverage public and private funding to connect communities to high-quality broadband services, understanding the cost variables of deployment remains a vital component to broadband plans and proposals,” said Deborah Kish, VP of Research and Workforce Development at the Fiber Broadband Association. “Our annual Fiber Deployment Survey uncovers fiber cost benchmarks and how costs change over time—information critical for broadband providers and state broadband offices as they prepare competitive applications for NTIA BEAD funding to connect their communities to reliable fiber broadband services.”

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