Fiber Installation Creates 'Digital Backbone' in Albuquerque, N.M.

Albuquerque is paying $1 million for the line, half of what it would have cost if the city didn't include the fiber installation in an ongoing private-sector project.

(TNS) -- Businesses and neighborhoods along Central Avenue could soon be getting high-speed internet service at an affordable price, thanks to a fiber optic line the city is installing from Louisiana to Coors as part of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

The city included the fiber line in its contract with HDR, the engineering firm managing ART construction. The fiber line will cost less than half what it would as a separate project, because ART contractors are already ripping up streets and digging ditches where the line will be installed, said Peter Ambs, the city’s chief information officer.

Albuquerque is paying $1 million for the line, using city bond money approved by voters in 2013. Had the fiber been laid separately from ART, it could have cost about $243,000 per mile, or a total of about $2.5 million, according to estimates by CTC Technology and Energy, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm contracted by HDR.

Installation will run parallel to the ART construction timeline, allowing the fiber to come online as rapid transit service begins in late 2017, Ambs said.

The city will own the fiber infrastructure. But it will provide open access for community broadband and internet service providers to hook up businesses, institutions and neighborhoods to the system. That could allow those providers to offer broadband access to end users at lower costs than what is available today, Ambs said.

“We’ll provide open access to the fiber backbone, making it available to any and all community groups and internet providers to offer broadband services to constituents along Central Avenue and adjoining neighborhoods,” Ambs said. “This can help them provide internet services at lower costs because the core foundation will already be installed.”

In addition, the project will connect the emerging Innovation District along Central Avenue, the University of New Mexico and the city’s own networks together into a high-speed platform that could significantly advance research, development and deployment of next-generation “smart city” initiatives and potentially entice more private sector investment Downtown.

“It’s all part of our revitalization efforts along Central Avenue,” Mayor Richard Berry told the Journal. “It’s a digital backbone for connecting our citizens with public services online and connecting businesses along Central to high-speed internet. It can be a catalyst for investment.”

The fiber line will help facilitate plans for new digital services and infrastructure, such as smart LED street lighting, mobile pay and ticketing for ART users and smart parking meters, Berry said.

The new fiber line will immediately offer huge broadband capacity, plus ability for easy upgrades in the future, Ambs said. The line itself includes 288 strands of fiber.

“With just a pair of fiber strands, you can provide gigabits of capability, so with 288 strands, it’s almost unlimited what you can do with it,” Ambs said.

The piping that holds the fiber has four separate tubes, with the current line occupying just one of those tubes. That means more fiber can be pulled through the other tubes as needed to increase capacity in the future without ripping up the streets again.

“We want to see the Google fiber-type service that exists in other cities become available here, with gigabit speeds at about $79 per month and 100 megabits at $49,” Ambs said.

Ricardo Aguilar, founder and CEO of the cloud-based computer, storage and network infrastructure provider Seamlus LLC, said the new fiber line could significantly improve the availability of affordable broadband by making the market more competitive for more internet service providers.

“It will provide the infrastructure needed for smaller guys to tap into and start bringing down costs,” Aguilar said. “It could allow them to better compete with the bigger players by offering more affordable services. That will give our citizens and our universities and research institutions better access to high-speed internet.”

©2016 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.