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 | 5 1 REDUCING CONSTRUCTION EXPENSES Reducing buildout and operational costs was a key priority for Huntsville Utilities in mapping out its fiber network. Upon completion, the network will serve 108,000 residential sites via Google Fiber. Foresite was able to evaluate the original design and re-engineer it to eliminate erroneous paths and then build in design efficiencies. Before the utility began working with Foresite, its fiber network construction expenses exceeded expectations. "We were in a position where construction costs were higher than desired, and construction mistakes were being made," Cantrell says. "By value engineering the design, we cut out significant construction footage, lowering our costs." Cantrell adds that Foresite also made it simpler for construction partners to follow its plans. "e construction prints that Foresite Group prepared were clear and easier for our contractor to follow, so there was less time in the field interpreting the prints and more time working – and fewer construction mistakes," she says. Ben Lewis-Ramirez, director of business development for Foresite Group, agrees that value engineering helped Huntsville better use its resources by giving it more accurate cost figures. "What we found when we came in is that the initial high-level estimates [made by] the group consulting with the utility were off by a lot of money," Lewis-Ramirez says. "We were able to give them some forward-looking approaches to allocating resources and construction sequencing to help rein the costs back in." APPLYING TELCO PROCESSES Foresite traditionally targeted large telcos and has only recently begun to address the utility and municipal broadband segments. Foresite created a market assessment process to guide utilities and municipalities in making a business case for building a fiber broadband network. e process includes strategy sessions, upfront planning and automated fiber network designs with multiple architectures. Lewis-Ramirez says the company applied what it learned from its work with larger providers to its growing base of electric utility and municipal provider customers. "We took the lessons learned in working on the big carrier projects and applied them to the municipal space," Lewis-Ramirez says. "What we found out pretty quickly was that … [municipalities] have a prescribed process they have to follow by law to select the right contractors." Unlike large telcos, which have in-house resources to develop network deployment plans, utilities and municipalities typically hire consultants. Foresite had established relationships with large telcos, providing fiber network design, wireless services and outside-plant engineering services under its telecommunications practice area. It can help new players map the network routes and estimate construction costs and potential take rates. "Telcos have their own process for determining what markets make sense to enter," Lewis-Ramirez says. "We applied that telco mindset of looking at a city in terms of how much it's going to cost to build. In other scenarios, we would also look at projected take rates, but in Huntsville that was not an issue, as there was an anchor tenant involved." FOCUS ON PARTNERSHIPS Seeing an opportunity to enable smaller cities to get broadband as larger carriers target Tier-1 cities, Foresite devised a "Gig-City" program as a strategic partnership with mayors, chief sustainability officers and economic developers to evaluate the needs of their communities and provide guidance about solutions. For municipalities and utilities that decide to build a fiber network to serve residential and business customers, Foresite Group becomes a single point of contact to manage the project. To coordinate the fiber network build process, Foresite develops relationships, negotiations, schedules, deliverables and expectations with the other partners. A key element of the program is outside-plant capabilities. Having developed the requisite outside-plant skills by working with its large telco clients, Foresite could bring those experts to assist Huntsville Utilities. "We relied a lot on our expertise as outside-plant engineers that work with big telcos in estimating costs and in overseeing these incredibly complicated network builds," says Lewis-Ramirez. "When you're deploying a network across an entire city, there are a lot of moving parts, and having everything properly coordinated is important." DARK FIBER INTEREST IS GROWING Huntsville Utilities' dark fiber network garnered immediate attention in 2016 when Google Fiber announced it was going to leverage the fiber network to establish an instant presence in the city. In February 2016, Google Fiber signed a 20-year lease on Huntsville's dark fiber network and committed to offer triple-play services to all Huntsville residents and small businesses. e news gained immediate attention, not because Huntsville was the first city to use a wholesale model – at least 100 other municipal networks do – but because Google Fiber was the first well-known provider to sign on with a municipal network. Google Fiber's agreement with Huntsville Utilities was part of a broader initiative to consider various methods in each city where it plans to deliver service, including the use of existing network infrastructure. Huntsville Utilities leases access on the network to Google Fiber, which in turn will connect customers to an FTTH internet service. Huntsville Utilities has set a goal to fund the fiber project's cost through lease agreements with private providers. Although it has not disclosed the specific dollar amount Google Fiber is paying to lease dark fiber, Huntsville Utilities' rate structure provides various options: network leases with a 32:1 split in which the tenant pays on a per-port basis, dark

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