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North Dakota telco lights up 5-Gig residential broadband service

Google Fiber is testing a 2 Gbit/s (downstream) broadband service in Nashville and Huntsville, a move that seemingly raised the speed bar and put other ISPs offering a measly 1-Gig on notice. To which, MLGC, a small telco that serves some 2,500 homes in east-central North Dakota, seems to be saying: "Hold my router."

MLGC is selling symmetrical 5-Gig for $199 per month.
MLGC is selling symmetrical 5-Gig for $199 per month.

MLGC, a member of ACA Connects, is kicking it up a few notches with the debut of a 5 Gbit/s residential broadband service in a handful of North Dakota communities, including Kindred, Davenport, Amber Plains/Round Hill, Enderlin, Finley and Cooperstown.

Update: MLGC's new offering is fast, but still not the fastest to carry a residential label. Chattanooga, Tennessee-based EPB, for example, sells a 10 Gbit/s service for $299 per month.

MLGC's uncapped 5-Gig service sells for $199 per month, Tyler Kilde, the company's president and general manager, said in an emailed response to questions.

He noted that MLGC has unleashed the service following an upgrade of its legacy Calix GPON gear to the vendor's E7 AXOS utilizing XGS-PON technology, along with the use of the Calix GH3200 ONT.

So what is MLGC doing to ensure that customers can utilize most or all of the 5 Gbit/s that's being delivered into the home? Kilde said MLGC used Ubiquiti's 10G-capable Unifi Dream Machine Pro, a 1-RU enterprise gateway that sells for $379 and, according to the supplier, is typically focused on small and midsized businesses. Kilde added that Ubiquiti also provides a line of 10G switches.

Ubiquity's 1-RU Unifi Dream Machine Pro is typically used for small and midsized businesses.
Ubiquity's 1-RU Unifi Dream Machine Pro is typically used for small and midsized businesses.

"It is vital for customers to understand what equipment is needed to utilize the capacity to the fullest," Kilde explained.

While it's not clear how many customers will need, let alone buy, the new 5-Gig service, MLGC, whose parent company is Griggs Country Telephone Co., says the FTTP upgrade project sets it up for the future.

MLGC also sells a 2.5 Gbit/s service for $150 per month, 1-Gig for $95, 500 Mbit/s for $78 and 150 Mbit/s for $55. MLGC has teamed with MobiTV on an IP-based pay-TV service that can run on a wide range of streaming devices, including smartphones, tablets, Apple TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV sticks and players and Fire TV Edition smart TVs, Android TV devices and web browsers.

Athough MLGC is a small, rural operator, its use of XGS-PON to power the 5-Gig launch does offer a glimpse into the future capabilities of residential networks.

While Google Fiber is sure to expand the availably of its 2-Gig offering, the cable industry has been pushing ahead with a "10G" project that aims to deliver multi-gigabit services over a range of access network types, including FTTP, hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) and fixed wireless.

Among recent examples, Comcast, which today offers a symmetrical 2-Gig service on FTTP called "Gigabit Pro," is testing symmetrical 1.25 Gbit/s on HFC using a distributed access architecture (DAA) in Jacksonville, Florida. Mediacom Communications hosted a "10G Smart Home" in Ames, Iowa, that demonstrated an enhanced DOCSIS 3.1 network upgraded to 1.2GHz, along with a high-split upstream upgrade capable of delivering about 5 Gbit/s down and 1.2 Gbit/s up.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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