Rural Colorado to build wholesale fibre network for internet and 5G

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A rural part of Colorado with 230,000 residents has awarded Ciena a contract to build a wholesale fibre network.

The network – called Project Thor – will connect 400 miles (650km) of existing public and private fibre into a wider network that will be operated by Mammoth Networks, based in the neighbouring state of Wyoming.

“A lack of reliable broadband limits economic development. We hope that this brings new applications and services to Colorado,” said Evan Biagi, vice president of business development at Mammoth Networks.

Behind the contract is the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), which brings together 28 jurisdictions in a five-county region of north-west Colorado covering 18,000 sq km.

“Whenever there’s a fibre cut, it impacts not only consumers in our towns, but cellphone carriers, public safety centres, schools, hospitals and other critical services,” said Nate Walowitz, NWCCOG’s regional broadband director. “By leveraging the fantastic technical and engineering support from Ciena, we can offer carrier-grade services, have a real-time view into our network as well as the ability to reroute traffic in the event of an outage.”

The existing network is susceptible to mass failures when a fibre line is cut. NWCCOG said that roughly 85% of the fibre needed for the project is already in place, taking advantage of existing networks such as those built by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Biagi said: “Mammoth is working closely with Ciena and its partners to create a robust and flexible network architecture that brings open, secure, and redundant broadband at a lower cost to NWCCOG members.”

Ciena’s CTO for the Americas, Kevin Sheehan, said: “Ciena is thrilled to help NWCCOG modernise and unlock the value of networks by providing a programmable, converged, multiservice network infrastructure that can scale up while simplifying operational support.”

According to Walowitz the project was jump-started by an infrastructure grant of $1 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which also provided a $270,000 grant to pay for access to the Department of Transportation’s fibre.

One town in the area, Vail, has voted to pay $75,000 in start-up costs, along with about $7,900 a month. TJ Johnson, Vail’s information technology director, said the monthly costs will handle ongoing maintenance.

Individuals won’t have access to the system until a local internet service provider taps in through Meet-Me centres established by local partners. Vail will set one up in its fire station.

Johnson said the town expects to recoup some of the costs in the near future. Once in place, the system will boost speeds for home users, and it will enable mobile operators to provide 5G services.




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