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Giant fiber-optic network to link up rural areas

7/30/2014

A Georgia company creating a $300 million fiber-optic highway across Texas has plowed about a tenth of that investment into the Texas Panhandle, an executive said.

FiberLight, a limited liability company, has completed about three-quarters of a planned 8,000-mile network that will link nearly 1,000 cell towers statewide, including 250 to 300 in the Texas Panhandle, said Ron Kormos, president of FiberLight’s Texas operations.

“West Texas includes about 3,500 miles (of fiber) from the Oklahoma Panhandle to the Big Bend, that’s about $115 million of the $300 million (invested),” Kormos said. “The Panhandle is about 25 percent of that — about $30 million.”

The project will enhance the ability for businesses in Texas — especially its rural areas — to send and receive data, Kormos said.

Those businesses range from small co-ops to large telecommunications companies, Kormos said.

“The project was fired off by a wireless carrier,” he said. “All the major wire carriers that you know are our customers.”

FiberLight’s client base includes 40 to 50 of the largest telecom companies in the United States, according to its website.

Early cell towers were equipped with technology focused more on voice transmission, Kormos said.

“Of course, the data explosion over the last 10 years has made that type of technology a little bit more difficult to transmit data, which is your smartphones, your iPad, things like that,” he said. “What the cell companies are doing, they’re converting to ethernet, which allows them to transmit high-speed data across cell towers.”

West Texas has presented connectivity challenges, Kormos said.

“It’s a long way between cities,” he said. “There’s a lot of cell tower dead spots. So this gives some of these companies a chance to have connectivity.

“So your farmer that’s out in the middle of nowhere is going to be able to, eventually, get his iPad and he’s going to be able to watch whatever you want off that cell tower.”

Besides enhanced data transmission, fiber can reduce latency — the delay in moving information between two points, Kormos said.

“Latency is a big issue with people who need real-time information — traders, banks,” he said. Companies also are seeking connectivity to particular cities or to mirror their data centers at locations on a different power grid or in another geographic location for backup and disaster recovery uses, Kormos said.

FiberLight used contractors based in the area or state where it could, he said.

Amarillo-based D&R Underground helped lay the cable, beginning in 2012 and continuing into spring of this year, President Dustin Hale said.

“We did about 250 miles of it, from as far down as Kress up into nearly the Oklahoma Panhandle,” Hale said. “It was great for us, and for the economy around here.”

D&R had about 40 employees on the job, he said.

FiberLight expects to continue to extend the network in the Texas Panhandle, Kormos said.

“We’ve got the main construction done, but we’re constructing now out towards Groom,” he said.

The company has set up an office in the Petroleum Building in downtown Amarillo. Ten employees will operate there with about that many also doing work for FiberLight on a contract basis, he said.

“We plan on calling Amarillo one of our homes,” Kormos said. “That’s one of our main points of presence.”

A point of presence, or POP, is basically the infrastructure that allows remote users to connect to the Internet, according to Techopedia.

Last year, FiberLight ranked 297th on Deloitte’s Technology 500, a ranking of the fastest-growing tech, media, telecom and other technology companies in North America.

FiberLight has constructed more than 500,000 miles of fiber-
optic cable across the southern Untied States, its website said.

The company, founded in 1998 as ASCI Network Technologies, was acquired in 2003 by Thermo Telecom Partners.

By Karen Smith Welch
Amarillo Globe News - July 30, 2014