Exelon Chairman, President, and CEO John W. Rowe, on the proposed merger that would create the largest utility in the United States....
What's been missing - until now - are regional exchanges to provide access to networks.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that energy companies have installed the vast majority of the some 75 million miles of optical fiber in the ground today, or that those same companies are lighting dark fiber and developing optical networks to boost return on their investment. For utilities, such investment fits perfectly with their two most valuable assets - rights of way and long-time experience in distribution services. The goal is simple: to buy and sell bandwidth just like gas and electricity.
Already, brokers are working with companies that own the transport fiber to create the standards and protocols that will make it possible to deliver bandwidth on-demand. With that in place, the focus will shift to building the actual infrastructure for physical distribution.
Yet, if utilities aren't careful, they will hit the same snag that has hampered traditional telcos: network interconnection. Until very recently, it's been a case of "fiber, fiber everywhere," but nowhere to connect. Now, however, a new model has emerged. That model is the optical transport exchange - the one place in each major market where multiple long-haul carriers, dark-fiber providers and metro networks physically converge. The end result is a neutral interconnection exchange where everyone comes together to connect virtually anything to anything. This is the "turnkey" solution utilities need to bring bandwidth to market.
The Promise of Exchanges
Today, carriers link networks in three basic ways: (1) in their own local central office, (2) in office buildings called "telco hotels," which evolved naturally as multiple carriers strung fiber to tenants in those buildings, and (3), most commonly, through expensive one-to-one connections. No cost-effective standard has emerged that might allow energy companies to get where they need to go - until now, that is. Optical transport exchanges bring order to the chaos. They bring buyers and sellers together.
These exchanges are located at the crossroads of the country's premier fiber routes, giving easy access to networks through highly engineered, but neutral, interconnection facilities. Their sole purpose is to interconnect transport networks to enable the exchange of any kind of traffic - voice, data, Internet, streaming video, you name it. They function as optical "watering holes" for all kinds of service providers.
But for utilities starting up in telecommunications, the most important thing to remember about these exchanges is that they level the playing field for new entrants. They provide access to everything a utility might need, including:
- technical support services,
- a ready pool of customers for both dark fiber and optical tributaries, and
- infrastructure to physically deliver bandwidth.
The concept is simple. Gaining entrance to these neutral exchanges speeds time to market, and can save considerable amounts of money in ramp-up costs. Each facility supports thousands of incoming strands of fiber, which can be cross-connected either physically using traditional patch cords, or logically by using an intelligent optical switch. The end result is a nexus of optical networks and a capacity that can be tapped and replenished.
This centralized approach to network interconnection speeds