OFS Floats Broadband-Via-Gas-Pipe

OFS, the former the fiber-optic division of Lucent Technologies is piloting a novel approach to laying high-speed networks.

The Norcross, Ga., company says it can thread its small, flexible DuctSaver FX cable through active natural gas lines without the costs and disruptions of digging up streets.

“By installing DuctSaver FX cable in city ducts, service providers can ramp-up in a time and cost efficient manner,” said Paul Neuhart, president of optical fiber cable and connectivity at OFS.

The OFS specialty cable measures 5.8 mm in diameter. Its 48-fiber count design packs a higher fiber density in a smaller space than previous cables, increasing the capacity of rights-of-way and allowing for easy upgrades.

The technology was originally developed by Sempra Fiber Links, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, of San Diego.

Long Beach, Calif.’s municipal energy company will be among the first to install DuctSaver FX cable in one mile of its natural gas lines. The project will connect several buildings in the port city, giving them broadband access for the first time.

Long Beach Energy Co. officials told The Long Beach Press Telegram the installation will cost about $30,000. The figure does not include the costs of running the service.

An application to expand the practice throughout the state are currently pending with state regulatory officials.

Lucent sold its fiber-optic business in mid-2001 as it tried to stem losses from the dot-com collapse and put the brakes on its sliding stock.

Furukawa Electric, a Japanese optical communications giant, picked up a controlling interest in OFS. CommScope, a broadband coaxial cable company, also has a minority stake.

In addition to the company’s headquarters, OFC has facilities in Avon, Conn.; Carrollton, Ga.; Somerset, N.J.; and Sturbridge, Mass., as well as overseas in Denmark, Germany, Russia and Brazil.

OFS is not alone in exploring existing utility infrastructure to deliver broadband. One last-mile proposal from a group of electrical companies, proposes the use of electrical wires to bring Internet access to outlets.

Like all broadband offerings, price and speed are critical variables that need to be addressed before launch, a group spokesman said. Alternative offerings, such as broadband-via-electric wires, are often proposed for rural areas not already served by traditional broadband services such as cable, digital subscriber line or satellite.

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