Diamond State Networks, an Arkansas-based wholesale broadband provider, is leveraging Ciena’s coherent optical solution to deploy the fastest and highest-capacity middle-mile network in the state.

Since the 1930s, Diamond State’s members—an association of 13 electric cooperatives—have been bringing vital utility services to rural communities throughout Arkansas. Now, their collective mission is to provide the next essential service: high-speed network connectivity.

This connectivity is urgently needed. Arkansas ranks near the bottom of U.S. states in terms of internet coverage, speed, and availability, placing 49th according to BroadbandNow. Diamond State aims to flip that statistic on its head with a new statewide middle-mile fiber network that its members can use to deliver reliable, affordable connectivity across the state so communities can thrive economically and socially.

“We’re aiming to make Arkansas the most connected state in the country,” said Doug Maglothin, CEO at Diamond State Networks. “Our 50,000-mile fiber network will cover 72 out of 75 counties in the state, reaching 64% of the population. That’s around 600,000 homes, businesses, and institutions passed.”

And they’re not alone on this mission to connect rural America. The Fiber Broadband Association notes that rural electric co-ops are the fastest-growing cohort of broadband providers. Several factors are contributing to this growth, including the availability of federal grants and funding, as well as existing physical infrastructure such as utility poles and traffic lights—and rights of way—that can be used to reach even the most remote communities with broadband.

“Many Arkansans will have access to fast broadband for the first time. Residents, healthcare providers, emergency services, and businesses will have fiber connectivity no matter their location, making our state an attractive place to live and do business,” added Maglothin.

What’s the middle mile?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defines a middle-mile network as any broadband infrastructure that is not directly connected to an end user. It is the fiber-optic infrastructure between—or in the “middle” of—an internet service provider (ISP) who provides last-mile service to customers and a regional internet backbone (see diagram below).

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Diamond State’s alternative approach

The traditional approach to delivering middle-mile capacity involves leasing circuits from an incumbent service provider. However, leasing can be cost prohibitive, drastically impacting the business case for providing broadband to rural locations.

But it’s also costly to build a greenfield optical network for the middle mile—doing so requires fiber, electronics, and construction, with construction representing the largest percentage of the cost.

It’s for these reasons that Diamond State elected to take a different approach and utilize established power infrastructure to deploy a middle-mile network. By running its own optical fiber over existing power corridor rights of way and routes, Diamond State can significantly reduce opex and construction costs.

Ciena solutions supporting Diamond State Networks

When it came to the network infrastructure, Diamond State was seeking a carrier-grade coherent optical solution capable of scaling to 800Gb/s wavelengths while providing resiliency through redundancy and easy network management. With these requirements in mind, Diamond State chose to work with Ciena.

Diamond State is deploying Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme (WL5e) coherent optics across a flexible 6500 ROADM photonic layer in a mesh architecture that utilizes a series of geographically diverse fiber loops to provide resiliency and scalability up to 800Gb/s per wavelength. Total fiber capacity can grow to 33.6 Tb/s using WaveLogic 5 technology. Redundancy is ensured by way of multiple core sites with connections to different ISPs.

Network management is via Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller, which provides full lifecycle operations and multi-layer visualization across the infrastructure. This simplifies service rollout and troubleshooting and allows the co-op to monitor and automatically reroute traffic should a fiber cut or service interruption occur.

Additionally, Diamond State gains real-time visibility of optical performance metrics with Ciena’s Liquid Spectrum analytics, which help ensure that maximum bandwidth is achieved within a fiber span, as well as in-service monitoring of fiber plant health with PinPoint OTDR, which localizes potential trouble spots, reducing the risk of service outages and accelerating repair times from days to hours.

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“With Ciena’s technology, Diamond State can adapt to changing service requirements in real time, turning up 400Gb/s and 800Gb/s wavelengths quickly, securely, and without truck rolls, providing operational, power, and cost efficiencies,” said Maglothin.

“The network makes it possible for us to provide crucial middle-mile access that enables utility co-ops to get closer to communities in Arkansas with fast, reliable internet connectivity at competitive prices. This will have a tremendous impact on the state’s economy and in the everyday lives of our citizens.”

For more information about Diamond State Networks, visit https://www.diamondstatenetworks.com/