How Turnkey Can Open Community Fiber Become?


Oct 12, 2009 1:17 PM, By Ed Gubbins

The open community fiber network is transforming from an experimental ad-hoc endeavor to a more commercialized market, thanks in part to the promise of broadband stimulus funds.

Across the country, those in need of broadband have launched grassroots public/private partnerships for creating fast, open fiber networks that link municipalities, hospitals, schools and other key community members, leasing excess capacity to encourage private providers to deploy broadband where it wasn’t cost-effective before. But whereas those efforts have previously been trials by fire, they are now imagined on a much more massive scale.

 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done some back-of-the-envelope math on applying community fiber across the entire underserved U.S., figuring a total cost between $5 billion and $10 billion to link key tenants such as hospitals, libraries, schools and colleges.

The FCC, which is still formulating its national broadband strategy, has taken notice of those numbers, asking for public feedback on the Gates Foundation estimates.

Meanwhile, the private sector is gaining speed in its pursuit of this market. Alcatel-Lucent is formalizing its approach, recently announcing a “turnkey Open Community Broadband” offering worldwide that combines its own fiber access networks with technologies from an ecosystem of partners.

To what extent can this model be mass-produced? There are bound to be unique needs and characteristics in different communities, but they may be most similar where it matters most for this model: in the need for big bandwidth among key community players. The unique qualities of each market underscore the value of network integrators leading a team of suppliers, such as Alcatel-Lucent. But carriers would be wise to go after this space more aggressively, too.

E-mail Ed Gubbins at ed.gubbins@penton.com.

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