Mahaska communication Group
trumps incumbent by Going Gpon
An Iowa-based lighting firm built broadband for itself, then the community
By Frank Hansen ■ Mahaska Communications Group
usco Lighting Corp. didn’t high-speed Internet services. decided to offer a complete range of
set out to create a local But that wasn’t the end of the voice, data, and video services to lo-
service provider. The com- story. Once its own service was cal businesses and residents.
pany is a leader in developing in- up and running, Musco Lighting Because we were new to com-
novative sports-lighting technology, quickly realized that everyone else in munications, we didn’t have a good
including solutions for permanent town faced the same problems it had, understanding of how to supply tele-
and temporary lighting and sports and that Oskaloosa as a whole paid a phone, TV, and data services. We
facility management. The firm is steep price for poor service. The in- knew we needed partners to expand
headquartered in Oskaloosa, Iowa, cumbent telco and ISP realized $6 to into the community, and over the
but operates around the world, with 8 million in revenues per year from years we’ve worked with a number
offices in Australia, Canada, China, the town’s businesses and residents, of product vendors and service pro-
Greece, Korea, and the U.K. Among but reinvested none of it in the com- viders to create our network. With
its customers are NASCAR, the munity and had few local employ- their help, we’re now able to offer a
NBA, major league baseball, the
England and Wales Cricket Board,
and major television networks. Once its own service was up and running,
The firm may be world class, Musco Lighting quickly realized that everyone
but back in 1999 the communica-
tions services available to it definitely
else in town faced the same problems it had,
were not. Service was expensive and and that Oskaloosa as a whole paid a steep
unreliable, and the incumbent telco
showed no interest in upgrading its
price for poor service.
offerings or its deteriorating copper
plant, which was 40 years old and in- ees. Musco Lighting thus decided to complete range of communications
cluded wire wrapped in paper. form the Mahaska Communication services to every home in Oskaloosa
Unable to find any alternatives, Group (MCG) to offer services to and have also moved into neighbor-
Musco Lighting decided to make its businesses, local government offices, ing communities.
own arrangement with Iowa Net- and local colleges. MCG decided that a Fiber to the
work Services (INS), which teams Initially, MCG hooked up a doz- Premises (FTTP) network was the
up with independent telcos in Iowa en business and municipal customers best way to go. The company started
to provide access to fiber optic tech- to its own point-to-point network to its fiber build-out in Oskaloosa in
nology to about 330 communities. offer data service; it offered no lo- 2003 and completed it in October
The arrangement allowed the cal telephone or video. After several 2005; today, we are building out to
company to create its own point- years in operation, however, MCG some of the denser communities out-
to-point fiber network and develop was ready to expand, and in 2003 it side of the town. In all communities,
74 | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | www.broadbandproper ties.com | SEPTEMBER 2006
200 Calix 400-Series ONTs.
In addition, MCG has expanded
its network to Indianola, a commu-
nity about 50 miles away, where we
have installed a dedicated FTTP
platform, the GPON-based Calix F5
purpose-built GPON FTTP system,
to backhaul services from MCG in
Oskaloosa to the town. The Calix
F5 is hardened and can be placed in
a remote cabinet for servicing a com-
munity miles away from the central
We’ve been very pleased with the
The ONTs are very simple to
install – it only takes about half an
hour, reliability is excellent, and
Calix’s support is really, really good.
Brett Paulsen (seated), Outside Plant Manager, locating fiber routes When there’s a problem, Calix solves
with Patrick Robinson, GIS Coordinator. it, even if the problem isn’t theirs.
The company doesn’t finger-point;
MCG has built fiber out to neigh-
borhoods, where it passes homes and
businesses. As subscribers sign on for
service, MCG extends the network
to their premises.
MCG’s partnership with Calix to
supply FTTP technology enabled the
company to start building the net-
work we envisioned. Initially MCG
installed the BPON-based Calix 400
System; it now installs the newer
GPON-based Calix 500 System.
The Calix 500-Series ONT for
residential use enables subscribers to
receive up to 40 Mbps symmetrical MCG’s team of installers.
service for data, VoIP or TDM voice,
and IPTV or RF video. The busi-
ness/multi-tenant version provides MCG has expanded its network to Indianola,
additional expansion ports to tailor a community about 50 miles away, where it
services to business or multi-tenant
applications as well as expansion has installed a dedicated FTTP platform, the
ports for delivering additional POTS GPON-based Calix F5 purpose-built GPON
(plain-old telephone service) and T1.
To date, MCG has installed about
FTTP system, to backhaul services from MCG
1,900 Calix 500-Series and about in Oskaloosa to the town.
SEPTEMBER 2006 | www.broadbandproper ties.com | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | 75
it’s willing to step in and get the job
done. It recognizes that our success Mahaska Communication Group Suppliers
is its success.
Calix, FTTP network technology www.calix.com
In addition to installing ONTs, in- Extreme Networks, video router www.extremenetworks.com
stallers must also wire homes with
Category 5 cable, which is required Iowa Network Services (INS), video content aggregator www.iowanetworkservices.com
for the set-top boxes used to receive
services such as IPTV. Wiring takes Mutual Telephone Co. (Mutel), telephone switching www.mutel.com
about four hours and is the most
time-consuming part of bringing a Myrio, video middleware (backhauls Internet traffic from router to NetINS via a gigabit
customer onto the MCG network. Ethernet connection) www.myrio.com
Initially MCG looked into contract-
ing out wiring but we decided to hire Postini, spam filtering www.postini.com
our own installers after being quoted
a rate of $90-100 per hour for a team Zone Telecom, wholesale long-distance service www.zoneld.com
of two installers.
We can send out a team for half
that amount, so we’re saving money.
Using local installers has also programming to Iowa telcos. ter employees by benefiting the en-
given us a good reputation. We felt Because MCG does not have a tire community and beyond.
contractors did not have the incen- video head-end, INS delivers video Local businesses are saving an
tive we did to always be courteous to content to MCG via a fiber connec- average of 39 percent compared to
our customers and take care of their tion. All MCG needs on site is a rout- what they were previously paying
homes as if they were our own. er from Extreme Networks to handle for service, and improved Internet
Our installers are working with data and video, plus video middleware service has helped them grow by
their neighbors, which makes for better from Myrio. MCG backhauls Inter- gaining business from outside the
relationships. They’re polite, and they net traffic from its router to NetINS community. Residents receive so-
clean up before they leave the home. via a gigabit Ethernet connection. phisticated services such as IPTV
As a result, we’ve received numerous The relationships with INS and and broadband Internet access at an
calls complimenting their courtesy. Mutel were a real benefit to us early economical price.
Plus, our eight installation vans are on. We didn’t have to learn about the Economic development is the
nicely painted and have our logo on video business, and we didn’t have to reason we got into this business in
them, so they’re a good marketing make a large capital investment for a the first place. Our goal was not
tool. If we had contracted with an in- video head-end and a Class 5 phone revenues – Musco Lighting benefits
stallation contractor, its trucks – and switch. We were able to rely on the in a lot of ways other than mon-
its name – would be on the road. expertise of our partners. etary – but our philosophy gives us
a very large advantage in competing
MCG Partnerships Network Benefits with the ILECs. We tell people they
As a local provider, MCG relies heav- the Community shouldn’t be afraid to jump into this
ily on partners to deliver services to its By creating its own fiber network, business. We employ 45 people who
customers; for example, Mutual Tele- Musco Lighting benefited by gain- didn’t have any expertise in telecom-
phone Co. (Mutel) of Morningsun, ing access to more reliable, higher munications before they joined us,
Iowa, provides all telephone switch- quality services at a more affordable yet we’ve been very successful. BBP
ing. Wholesaler Zone Telecom pro- rate. By creating MCG and an en-
vides long-distance service. Postini tire FTTP system, Musco Lighting About the Author
provides spam filtering. MCG also benefited by more than just revenue. Frank Hansen is the General Manager
works directly with video content ag- The availability of a high-quality, of Mahaska Communications Group.
gregator INS, which contracts with high-speed communications service Frank can be reached via email at
content owners and delivers video has helped the company attract bet- email@example.com.
76 | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | www.broadbandproper ties.com | SEPTEMBER 2006