Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2019

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 3 3 "It is a mobile-centric offering, and I'm a huge believer in mobility. Will there be fixed-line substitute applications here? Absolutely," Stephenson said. "I do think the path Verizon is pursuing is going to be a really good service. at's not our priority." Meanwhile, Verizon advocates a mobile and in-home broadband approach as a wireless competitor to cable outside its wireline markets. Following various trials, Verizon deployed 5G in four markets using proprietary, nonstandard technology, with plans to expand deployments in 2019. Will providers that don't have wireless networks see 5G as a threat to their wireline broadband market? Traditional wireline and cable operators will likely leverage 5G for backup circuits for business customers and continue to provide fiber-based backhaul services. "So 5G will have an impact on some portion of the consumer business, but again, fiber is very competitive relative to 5G, and therefore our focus is on fiber even for consumers," Dev said. "For the enterprise business, we think it will be net positive, so as some of our wholesale customers roll out 5G networks, hopefully we'll benefit from that. 5G also has a mechanism for access." However, Dexter Goei, CEO of Altice USA, which is building out a dual FTTH and DOCSIS 3.1 network, dismisses 5G as a near-term threat. "By and large, if you look at the material and timetables associated with 5G, it seems like this is something that's far off. I think this is something that will be a slow burn, but we'll be watching," Goei said. "Outside of the time and capital outlay, the business plan from our standpoint looks shaky when they start launching a product in any breadth." ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES FURTHER MOMENTUM Traditionally offering electricity to rural areas, electric cooperatives will extend or partner with other providers to build broadband networks. Nearly 100 electric cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural homes, businesses and schools. Unlike Google Fiber, which struggled with pole access, electric cooperatives can leverage existing rights of way and existing easements to install fiber. e timing could not be better. A 2018 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association study estimated that the dearth of broadband access for 6.3 million electric cooperative households resulted in more than $68 billion in lost economic value. Another factor will be the FCC's Connect America Fund II (CAF-II) reverse auction. In August, 35 electric co-ops were awarded funding from the reverse auction, which allowed cooperatives to participate. Seeing an opportunity to close the gap in a market that had few, if any, broadband service options, the Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) in southern Oklahoma has been building a FTTH network that provides a triple- play service bundle. In 2014, the cooperative began two pilot FTTH service projects. After the pilot met its financial and subscriber interest goals, LREC decided to expand the network. It organized its service area into 11 zones and is asking residents and businesses to sign up for service. It was also granted CAF-II funding to supplement its efforts. Like Google Fiber with its Fiberhood program and TDS Telecom with its Fiberville campaign, LREC will expand its FTTH network to the zones in which a high number of members preregister. Currently serving 3,300 FTTH customers, the cooperative is seeing average take rates of 45 percent. Hamid Vahdatipour, CEO of LREC, likens providing broadband to bringing electricity to rural areas. "Broadband is the new necessity, just [as] electricity was in the 1930s," Vahdatipour says. "Providing broadband to rural areas is not something a for-profit entity can justify, but electric co-ops are suited for this, so it makes it a lot easier for us to start these kinds of projects." Interestingly, LREC has seen voice- only customers increase, bucking the traditional ILEC trend. "What was surprising to me – and I did not think anybody had landlines anymore – but about 1 percent of our members have phone-only with us," Vahdatipour says. Today, the cooperative offers symmetrical speeds ranging from 50 to 100 Mbps. However, LREC could offer 1 and even 10 Gbps over the EPON network if a customer requests it. In his webinar, Render said rural electric cooperatives represent a rapidly rising FTTH service segment. "Rural electric cooperatives are probably the fastest-growing group," Render said. "is group has determined that even though they operate in very rural areas with low density, the take rates are spectacular, and fiber helps them with demand control and hooking up distributed energy sources." Rural telco advocacy group NTCA says partnerships of electric and other utility cooperatives with existing telcos are gaining momentum because such partnerships help them access resources and knowledge. Consider, for example, Illinois Fiber Connect, a partnership of Wabash Telephone Cooperative and EJ Water Cooperative. e service provider is bringing FTTH to residents around the Midwest, allowing businesses and consumers to access internet speeds up to 1 Gbps, as well as voice and video services. "We talk a lot about partnerships, and it has been interesting watching two like-minded organizations in the same communities coming together," says Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA. "We have a number of electric cooperatives that are working with our rural broadband company members to figure out how they take their joint resources and move further into some of these rural markets together." v Sean Buckley is the associate editor of Broad B and Communities . He can be reached at sean@bbcmag.com.

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