Government/industry partnership brings fiber to Oklahoma

Government/industry partnership brings fiber to Oklahoma

By STEPHEN HARDY

Four Oklahoma government agencies have banded together to exchange rights-of-way for fiber-optic communications infrastructure. The result is a government/industry partnership that will provide the agencies with a high-speed communications network they couldn`t afford to build themselves, while providing additional fiber pathways for telecommunications carriers.

The new network, which includes an existing 60-mi fiber network that was upgraded as part of the project, will cover 550 mi along rights-of-way owned by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (ota) and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Office of State Finance (osf) are also members of the four-agency team. (The State Regents operates OneNet, a data-communications and distance-learning network, in cooperation with the osf.) The quartet contracted with two companies--ixc Carrier Inc. of Austin, TX, and mbo Video of Earlsboro, OK--to swap rights-of-way for fiber capacity.

The necessary contracts took a year to iron out, according to the ota`s Gary Brown, who directed the project as the agency`s director of communications and information. Danny Overland, vice president of mbo Video`s parent company, mbo Corp., says his firm`s piece of the project required that the osf agree to the project with mbo, then had to make a separate deal to trade fiber for rights-of-way with the ota. Thus, mbo built the fiber network on the ota rights-of-way; excess fiber was traded to the osf for the existing 60 mi of state-owned fiber between Oklahoma City and Stillwater; and the osf gave some of its fiber from the mbo network to the ota.

The bottom line, according to Brown, is that the ota will receive 12 fibers from ixc Carrier. It will light 4 of these fibers for OC-12 (622-Mbit/sec) transmission capacity, which it will share with the state. The ota also received 4 fibers from mbo Video, which will remain dark because the agency will share OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/sec) capacity on the 4 fibers the state received from mbo Video.

The desire to make the network compatible with existing education networks led to the State Regents` assuming responsibility for transmission equipment purchase and maintenance. The agency chose equipment from its previous supplier, nec America, Herndon, VA. According to information provided by nec America sources, the network has OC-3 (155-Mbit/sec), OC-12, and OC-48 equipment, as well as terminals and add/drop systems.

The agencies have ambitious plans for their new networks. For example, the State Regents plans to link schools statewide into the OneNet system. The ota will use its capacity to reduce costs on its electronic toll collection system, while the Department of Transportation will save leased line costs in connecting its division offices.

The communications companies saw the project as an opportunity to expand their infrastructures economically. For example, mbo Video has several projects in mind, according to Overland. "Obviously, providing carrier traffic routes is one of the main uses. It has allowed for immediate dollar generation and was constructed specifically with some carriers` needs in mind," he says. The network connects the company`s local exchange carrier service areas, which enables efficiencies for switch office and toll-route facilities, as well as the potential opportunity to switch all of its serving offices at one location. The company counts at&t, Brooks Fiber, OneNet, nts, mci, pagenet, acsi, and other independent telephone companies as network customers. mbo Video also plans to use the network to support its personal communication service licenses in Stillwater and Muskogee.

mbo Video installed singlemode fiber, with no fewer than 72 fibers in each cable, according to Overland (see photo on page 1). Some segments contain 96 fiber strands. Overland describes mbo`s part of the network as OC-192 capable, with the addition of equipment from Nortel, in Richardson, TX.

ixc also installed singlemode fiber in its routes, according to John Fleming, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. ixc generally uses non-zero dispersion-shifted fiber from Lucent, Corning, or Siecor as it builds its nationwide network, of which the 350-mi Oklahoma run is part. He says ixc will run multiple channels of OC-48 for its clients through the new pathway; although the network will accommodate wavelength-division multiplexing, Fleming says such technology will not be needed initially. In discussing the cost of building the Oklahoma link, Fleming says ixc`s average cost is approximately $26,000 per mile. q

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