In a previous post, I presented an Installation Guide for potential FiOS customers. I wrote that guide with the benefit of hindsight. In this post, I’ll describe my own installation. You can see how I gained some of that hindsight and learn what gets attached to your house.
First Visit – The Drop
For a single-family building (e.g. my house), Verizon splits the installation into two days. The “drop” is an optical fiber cable running from the nearest utility pole or box to an attachment point on your house. Unfortunately, you cannot schedule the date of the drop installation (aerial at least, I’m not sure about underground). In areas with underground utilities, the fiber-optic cable may have to be trenched in, which is why the drop gets a day all its own in the schedule. Our area uses aerial drops and the fiber was installed in less than half an hour.
If (like I was) you are imagining a guy reeling a length of fiberoptic cable out of a box just like Ethernet cable, not so. Because of the difficulty in terminating optical fiber, drops come in fixed lengths with connectors affixed to both ends. When the lineman comes out, he/she assumes that the ONT will be bolted to the exterior wall directly below the point where the fiber attaches to the house. If you want the ONT some distance away, you have to get the lineman to install a longer cable.
The sales representative had added a note to my order requesting the ONT to be installed in the basement. This information was not passed on to the lineman. Fortunately I was home when he showed up and he readily agreed to “super-size” the drop and paced off the distance to where I wanted the ONT.
The Verizon FiOS web site, the technician during the ordering phone call, and Internet forums all had differing opinions on if/how one could use Ethernet cable to connect the ONT to the Internet router. But everyone agreed that “if you want an Ethernet connection to your router, you must run Cat 5e cable ahead of time”, so I did just that and hoped for the best.
I also screwed a 24″ by 12″ plywood ONT mounting panel to studs in the basement. A grounded outlet was just within 10 feet of the panel.
Second Visit – Installation Day
Verizon installer “Bob” arrived toward the middle of the 4-hour appointment window, cheerful and ready to install FiOS. I led him to the basement and proudly unveiled the plywood mounting panel with my newly run Cat 5e cable hanging nearby.
After verifying that a long fiberoptic cable had been run from the pole and that a grounded outlet was nearby, Bob signed up for the basement ONT location. He attached the ONT and power supply, coiling the excess cable in a storage bin mounted behind the ONT. In the photo below, the FiOS fiberoptic cable is the one with the red tag attached.
Next, Bob screwed a signalling LED onto the fiberoptic cable and then drove off to the other end of the cable to find and connect it to the Verizon FiOS infrastructure. Upon return, he connected a piece of measuring equipment in place of the LED and pronounced the signal level to be excellent.
ONT and Power Supply Mounting Panel
Motorola ONT Coaxial, Ethernet, and POTS Connections
If I had seen the FiOS ONT and power supply beforehand, I would have planned a horizontal panel, with the ONT to the left and power supply to the right. This would have made for neater wire runs with fewer crossovers.
At this point, the ONT is connected to Verizon and is online. Now the premises wiring (TV, phone, and Internet) must be connected. When I asked Bob to use my Cat 5e cable to connect to the router, he declared this to be impossible. “Older routers could be connected with both Cat 5e and coaxial cable, but the newer ones use only coax. Here, take a look for yourself,” he said, handing me the Actiontec router.
Well, the Actiontec router has an Ethernet WAN port and the ONT has an Ethernet port pointed to by a big, green, “Step 2” arrow (see Connections photo). But I still didn’t know what the STB needed to connect with on the LAN, and faced with Bob’s conviction that Cat 5e couldn’t be used, I relented. Bob said he would run new coaxial cable to the same destination as my Ethernet cable, so I pointed to the far corner of the basement crawl space and off he went.
Bob did a professional job routing the RG-06 cable through the crawl space to the router and connecting to the existing TV cable. I ended up with properly supported cable running parallel or perpendicular to the floor joists, as opposed to the diagonal maze left by the cable TV installer last time around. By offering to help with a couple runs, I ended up with all new coaxial cable in the basement, leaving only one short existing stub to the set-top box (STB).
The Motorola STB and Actiontec MI424WR Internet router are standard fare so I’ll skip any photos of them.
With everything wired up, Bob now needed access to a PC to activate the STB for the TV and “complete the installation” of our FiOS Internet. Planning for this, I had rebooted one of my Linux workstations back into Windows XP. Bob ran an application off of a USB thumb drive that uploaded some measurements of the FiOS signal quality, then set a username and password for the router.
Verizon has added their own GUI for the Actiontec router: suffice to say it’s a heavy-handed, “if it’s more inconvenient, it must be more secure” affront to customers, while of course providing an un-blockable back-door for Verizon to log in remotely any time they please.
I logged into the router and viewed the network. The set-top box indeed appeared as a DHCP client, so the stories are true: Verizon FiOS STBs must be able to view the Actiontec router on their LAN segment in order to request an IP address.
Verizon FiOS performs as advertised, slightly exceeding both download and upload bit rates on DSLReports speed tests. But I haven’t yet downloaded a Linux distribution torrent to confirm sustained rates.
I’m very glad to have the FiOS ONT inside the house. Only the optical fiber passes through the wall. If the ONT had ended up outdoors, up to 5 wires would be drilled through the wall, and neighbors would have to look at my ugly ONT. If you have an attached garage, that’s the perfect place for your ONT.
If you sign up for FiOS Internet plus TV (with a set-top box), the Internet router must be connected to the ooaxial cabling in the house. This is true even if the router-to-ONT WAN connection is Cat 5e. This LAN topology with MoCA and Ethernet segments and STBs is unusual. I haven’t seen anything like this since the days of 10Base-2 Ethernet (anyone remember thinnet?).