April 24, 2017

At Babcock Ranch, it’s back to the future

By: Vicki Parsons - IT April 20, 2017

Fiber isn’t just fast, it’s future-proof as well — two very different things equally important.

Each reality is now apparent at Babcock Ranch in the vital new partnership of CenturyLink and Kitson & Partners, creators of the nation’s greenest, biggest solar-powered city.

“When people think of broadband, they usually just relate it to high-speed internet. Most consumers subscribe to 20 or 40 megabits, but we are delivering 1,000 megabits or the equivalent of 1 gigabit to Babcock Ranch,” explains Danny Pate, vice president of operations in south Florida for CenturyLink.

That’s for homeowners. Businesses will be able to access more speed and capacity right off the bat.

At home, residents will be able to stream multiple HD movies at the same time, upload huge files in seconds, video chat without interruption, play games in real time and engage in all aspects of social networking, officials say.

PATE Small businesses, meanwhile, can use fiber to increase productivity and efficiency while working in the cloud, sharing multimedia files, streaming video content and backing-up data in realtime.

“We believe that providing a quality broadband network will be a catalyst for attracting premier technology companies to locate to southwest Florida and for encouraging home-based businesses and telecommuting,” says Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners and the town founder.

“Gigabit broadband will be the two-way data conduit for municipal services, the fabric for social networks within the community, and the backbone for the smart grid security system, transportation network, health-care network and much more.”

Every home — the first models are now selling, but ultimately 19,000 of them; every business — the first businesses are now open in the town center, but ultimately 6 million square feet of commercial space; and every corner of the nation’s first wholly solar-powered town will bring together fiber connectivity and smart city technology in a fiber network unprecedented in scope.

“Fiber optics are the ultimate transmission medium,” explains Mr. Pate: “about the size of a human hair but with the ability to transmit data at high speeds and for long distances…and it’s not susceptible to lightening or power influences so it’s much more reliable than traditional copper or co-axial networks. Once you have fiber, you have future-proofed your home for any services you may want to buy to make your life easier.”

Although CenturyLink has run fiber optics into small communities — a subdivision or a neighborhood with a couple thousand condos — the company has never provided such future-proofing on this scale, to a city that will one day include 50,000 residents and many businesses, Mr. Pate says.

“It’s not just speed,” Mr. Pate explains, describing why the fiber installation at Babcock is so significant. “It’s the fact that this is set up to be future-proof over multiple decades. To the home, to the living rooms or bedrooms or kitchens of offices or wherever, I can deliver any kind of service over this media.

“Whether it’s 5, 10 or 15 gigabits in 30 years, it’ll go in through that fiber.”

All of this will do a couple of things for the many people who will live and work at Babcock Ranch, concludes Mr. Pate.

“As requirements increase they can update the speed, and grow as the economy grows. Right now there’s a lot of cache with the one gigabit launch — it’s an excellent marketing tool. It should increase the viability of that community.

“On top of that, it’s a real-time tool that consumers can use, integrating all their smart technologies and having it all talk together.”

Welcome to the future. Now.