Clarksville, TN, hops aboard FTTH

NOVEMBER 5, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- The Clarksville, TN, Department of Electricity is building out a point-to-point active Ethernet network that will reach all of its approximately 55,000 customers.

NOVEMBER 5, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- The Clarksville Department of Electricity (CDE), the utility chartered to provide electricity to the residents and businesses of Clarksville, TN (yes, that one), is building out a point-to-point active Ethernet network that will reach all of its approximately 55,000 customers. Originally designed to support remote meter reading, the network will also provide a platform for the delivery of voice, video, and data services.

When completed, the Clarksville network will be among the largest municipal FTTH networks in the United States, if not the largest.

According to Christy Batts, telecom marketing manager at CDE, the utility had been deploying fiber to support traffic signals using and active Ethernet network and began considering whether to extend that network to support remote meter reading. The utility spends about $30 per truck roll to maintain the metering part of their operations, including service turn up, so upgrading the network to support remote meter reading presented an opportunity for cost savings. Stephen Hopkins, vice president of telecommunications at CDE, says the company looked at a variety of technologies, including wireless and broadband over power line before reinforcing its commitment to a fiber-based infrastructure.

The company also decided to leverage the infrastructure to get into the communications business. Thanks to a positive response to a ballot question voted upon in November 2006, the company received permission to offer communications services, and an RFP for the necessary electronics followed in December 2006. Seven companies responded, Hopkins recalls, offering a mix of PON and active Ethernet approaches. CDE opted for World Wide Packets and the point-to-point active Ethernet approach it espoused.

"We've been through all the arguments with all of the different technologies about which is best," says Hopkins. "For us clearly, because our deployment is 100% to every meter, to every customer in the city of Clarksville, bandwidth and bandwidth availability becomes significant to us. And with an Ethernet solution like World Wide Packets' we have the ability to provide 100 Mbits/sec to any customer in Clarksville. We don't have to worry about how do we split that, how do we share that, and how do we move that around."

The fact that the company had already supplied equipment for the traffic signal network, also counted in its favor, Batts conceded.

Batts says that approximately 500 homes have been connected for meter reading purposes, but that the roll out will quickly get into high gear over the next few weeks. Service tests should begin soon, and CDE expects to begin marketing its communications services under the CDE Lightband brand later this month. The services will be offered to both residents and businesses. CDE has partnered with Telco Television to supply its video content.

The network consists of multiple rings around the city, with subtending rings delivering service, Hopkins says. Atlantic Engineering will provide the lion's share of deployment services, with other contractors potentially involved in hooking up customers. OFS is supplying the fiber, he adds.

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