Fiber OpticsAnother power company said today that it plans to offer residential gigabit service. Jackson Energy Authority of Jackson, Tennessee expects to begin offering service early next year, said Ben Lovins, senior vice president of JEA’s Telecommunications Division, in an interview.

The company initially deployed fiber-to-the-home in 2003 and will upgrade that infrastructure by replacing optical network terminals and optical line terminals. “Due to the age of the gear and the fact that we want to be able to offer one gigabit service, we decided to do an upgrade,” Lovins said. The company expects the upgrade to take three years and will focus initial upgrades on customers who want to order the new service.

JEA initially deployed a non-standard PON network but the upgraded network will use GPON equipment from Adtran.

JEA’s Tennessee Gigabit Network
JEA’s offering will be symmetrical. “We believe symmetrical data is going to be important moving forward,” said Lovins, who noted that cable companies cannot easily offer symmetrical service using their traditional hybrid fiber coax infrastructure.

Pricing for JEA’s gigabit service has not yet been determined, but Lovins said the company is targeting the sub-$100 range. The highest broadband speed that JEA currently offers is 100 Mbps and Lovins anticipates offering one or more speed tiers between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps.

Some companies rolling out ultra-high-speed broadband have been automatically upgrading existing customers to higher speed services without charging extra. JEA hasn’t made a determination about whether to do that, Lovins said, but he noted that in the past the company has made that move.

In the 10 years since it began offering triple play services using FTTH, JEA has achieved strong take rates reaching 70% in the broadband market. The initial FTTH deployment was funded in large part through a bond offering, but the gigabit network upgrade is being funded through cash flow. JEA expects the upgrade of 18,000 customer endpoints to cost $8 million to $10 million.

Smaller communities increasingly are seeing gigabit networks as an important element of economic development – and Jackson is no exception. JEA already offers gigabit service to local schools and businesses. And a “mega” data center already is planned for the community.

JEA is responsible for power, gas, water, waste water and propane distribution for the community and Lovins believes the company’s role as a one-stop shop could be attractive to companies considering a move to the community.

“We’re going to really be working to get Jackson on the map,” said Lovins.


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