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GCN : June and July 2016
SIKLUCOMMUNICATION BY PATRICK MARSHALL EMERGING TECH GIGABIT INTERNET over fiber-optic cable came to my neighborhood six months ago. And though I’m paying more than I’d like to for the service, I’m a happy camper. But I live in Seattle, a densely packed, high-tech city. What about smaller communities that want to support local businesses and residents with gigabit Internet but don’t have enough customers to tempt private-sector companies into laying fiber? Like a number of other smaller communities around the country, Santa Cruz, Calif., decided to move to municipal broad- band, with the city provid- ing the infrastructure and partnering with a private- sector partner to deliver the services. According to J. Guevara, the city’s econom- ic development manager, there was an additional problem to solve: The city couldn’t get underground fiber all the way to custom- ers quickly enough. Santa Cruz’s solution was to turn to a network of millimeter-wave radios to deliver the last leg of ser- vice at gigabit speeds. Part- nering with Siklu Commu- nication, which makes the radios, and local Internet service provider Cruzio, the city will position radios in 17 locations, primarily on rooftops, to deliver gigabit speeds to customers. Guevara stressed that the solution is a temporary one for two reasons. “First, obviously we’re going to run out of rooftop space,” he said. “You can’t do that through the whole city.” Furthermore, in addi- tion to having relatively limited range, millimeter- wave radios are sensitive to weather conditions. Noting that public services can’t rely on connectivity that might be erratic during bad weather, Guevara said, “The millimeter wave is a really strong redundancy but not necessarily the primary means to serve the entire city, especially for public safety.” And indeed, the city plans to lay fiber-optic cable in stages to eventu- ally create a 100 percent underground network. To that end, officials are pro- posing a 30-year lease rev- enue bond to fund the fiber infrastructure. The city is responsible for building the dark fiber Layer 1 network, and Cruzio handles the Layer 2 electronics and the Layer 3 Internet backhaul and provides the actual service, Guevara said. In the meantime, he added, the wireless radios provide “a taste of what fiber at gigabit speeds feels like” for community and government services. The city planned a 12- week rollout of the hybrid network beginning in late April. “It’s a great role for municipal government to fill that gap in an inefficient marketplace,” Guevara said. When the fiber-optic net- work is complete, the city will have “50 years or more of quality infrastructure. And from what we know, fiber is still future-proof.” Guevara noted that Chattanooga, Tenn., which recently began to offer 10-gigabit Internet to cus- tomers, only had to switch out the electronics because it had already built a fiber- optic infrastructure. “Once that glass is in the ground, you are good for all the amazing stuff that we can’t even predict,” he said. That’s why Guevara sees Santa Cruz’s deployment of millimeter-wave wireless as a short-term, but invalu- able, solution. “Logging into millimeter wave is great for lowering costs in the early roll- out, but it’s not the best, conservative infrastructure choice,” he said. “It’s a great technology that can reduce costs and can get you into the areas that don’t make sense for fiber.” • Getting to gigabit Internet without fiber Santa Cruz, Calif., is placing Siklu Communication’s millimeter-wave radio devices on rooftops throughout the city as a quick, short-term way to bring gigabit Internet speeds to residents while fiber-optic cable is being installed. GCN JUNE/JULY 2016 • GCN.COM 29 0716gcn_029.indd 29 6/1/16 9:17 AM
August and September 2016