Ting going its own way with fiber deployment

Ting, a company known for its unique pricing model as a wireless MVNO, is going its own way in deploying fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) as well, as the carrier is currently pursuing both lit and dark fiber for deployments.

Ting began its move into the FTTP space in December, when it announced the acquisition of Blue Ridge InternetWorks, a company that was in the process of deploying FTTP in Charlottesville, Va. Ting has indicated plans to deploy FTTP to 12,000 homes in that city. The FTTP network currently passes 3,000 homes and businesses in Charlottesville. In this market, Ting is doing its own network deployment.

In January, Ting announced its second deployment of FTTP services, this time in Westminster, Md. The city of Westminster is in the process of building out dark fiber access to 9,000 homes and 5,000 businesses in the city. Under its agreement with the city, Ting is purchasing the electronics necessary to light the fiber and will become the service provider.

Adam Eisner, director of networks for Ting's Internet division, told FierceInstaller in an interview that Ting has an initial period of being the exclusive carrier on Westminster's fiber network. However, after a certain amount of time, the network will be opened up to other service providers.

Eisner indicated that both models have their advantages. By using Westminster's dark fiber network, Ting avoids the lion's share of the costs of deployment, Eisner said. This model is easier to scale. Also, he added that the city, in deploying the fiber, has heavy incentives to make the effort work and that the city has been helpful in terms of marketing and providing permits.

In fully deploying its own network in Charlottesville, Ting faces higher start-up costs, but controls its own network. Also, there is no requirement in Charlottesville for Ting to share its network with other providers.

In Charlottesville, the fiber deployment is 90 percent aerial, Eisner said. This approach is significantly less expensive than trenching. However, the fiber run to the home could be either trenched or it could be an aerial drop, depending on the situation. Eisner said that aerial cable was generally used in established areas of the city.

Unlike most FTTP deployments, the fiber does not stop at the customer's outside wall. The fiber goes to a gateway that Ting deploys in the customer's home. Currently, Ting is using the Calix GigaCenter as the gateway that distributes an 802.11ac Wi-Fi signal around the home.

In both markets, Ting is using Gigabit Passive Optical Networking (GPON). With GPON, end users share last-mile bandwidth, but GPON deployments are less expensive than active Ethernet FTTP due to the lack of active electronics in the field.

Ting has stated in blog postings that it is "actively discussing Ting Internet with municipalities and business all across the U.S." So far, Charlottesville and Westminster are the only cities to be announced. Service is not yet available in Westminster, but i June, potential customers gained the ability to see whether service is to become available at a given address.

Ting currently charges residential customers $89 per month for symmetrical access of up to 1 Gbps, plus $399 for installation. Business pricing for 1 Gbps is $139 per month, plus $599 for installation. Eisner said that Ting is "looking at" the possibility of providing TV service, but that the provider is not currently selling TV or wireline phone services.

The cost of the Calix GigaCenter is covered by the installation charge. Ting generally sends two installers whenever service is installed.

Ting was previously known primarily as a prepaid MVNO that used Sprint's network. As an MVNO, Ting is known for a highly flexible pricing model that allows customers to only pay for what they use. Its parent company is Tucows, a publicly traded company that also has a business helping companies with domain registrations.   

For more:
- see Ting blog that provides details about its FTTP deployment in Charlottesville
- see this page about the Calix GigaCenter

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Ting to take 1 Gig service to Westminster, Md.