Utility companies are inextricably linked to the concept of gigabit-speed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, if for no other reason than the first such network to be introduced in the US was deployed by a utility. That was in Chattanooga, where EPB Fiber Optics -- a division of the municipally-owned utility EPB -- christened the concept of residential gigabit services in 2010.
Many entities have since followed suit -- some of them telecommunications service providers, some of them cable operators, some of them municipalities in some form of public/private partnership with commercial network operators, some of them Google and some of them utilities. The US is in the early phases of the Gigabit Cities era, of which many utilities are becoming integral parts.
The affiliation of utilities and gigabit networks makes sense in many ways. Utilities are, after all, providers of essential services. Furthermore, there is a nationwide regulatory debate raging right now about whether or not broadband services should be classified as a utility. And, in most communities, the local utility's facilities are critical to the deployment of FTTH networks. (In some places, utilities and their permitting processes are frequently blamed for deployment delays.)
In other ways, the affiliation isn't so logical. For one thing, despite the fact that most utilities rely on advanced communications technologies to deliver many of the services they provide, some of them aren't all that tech-savvy. Many of them have yet to upgrade and modernize those communications networks, either because they don't have the budgets, or in some cases because they may not have the technology know-how. In other words, they're not all as advanced as EPB and other utilities that have become entrenched in the gigabit services sector.
With all that in mind, a new Heavy Reading Insider, "Utilities and Gigabit Cities: A Market Sizing Report," explores the opportunity for utilities and the short- and long-term roles they might ultimately play in the Gigabit Cities ecosystem. The report assesses the size of the US utility sector by providing a state-by-state list of US utilities spanning all categories (public, co-op and municipally owned) and, in doing so, identifies market opportunities for technology vendors in the utility communications sector.
The report also provides several examples of utilities that are already participating in the gigabit network sector -- examples that serve to demonstrate not only models for success, but also the extraordinary service delivery, technology infrastructure, regulatory and marketing hurdles that could prevent many from realizing similar successes.
The Gigabit Cities ecosystem -- and indeed the overall US broadband economy -- is becoming increasingly complex, characterized by regulatory issues, cost constraints, technological complexity and intense competition. All of those factors will affect what role utilities play in the gigabit game, how that role could evolve over time, and ultimately how successful they will be.
— Jason Meyers, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider
Utilities and Gigabit Cities: A Market Sizing Report, a 12-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,995. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.