Copper revs up

When Cincinnati Bell was approached by its customers to provide high-speed connectivity, all it had to do was look at its existing infrastructure to get the feeling it wasn’t going to happen.

The carrier had miles of copper lines, but no fibre to enable the high-speed services its customers were demanding. Building out fibre lines wasn’t an option, either, as there wouldn’t have been enough time to do so and meet customers’ deadlines.

The carrier sought the help of Actelis Networks Inc. to enable fibre-quality bandwidth over existing copper cables. Through Actelis’s patent-pending MetaLOOP, a spatial delivery multiplexing technology, the company has released MetaLIGHT 1500, a broadband transport system that the company said enables multiple copper lines to support speeds of 10Mbps to 55Mbps and reach distances of up to 18,000 feet. Not a media converter, MetaLIGHT 1500 uses standard, off-the-shelf digital modems to transport data over copper lines.

In September this year, Cincinnati Bell installed MetaLIGHT 1500 boxes to provide service to customers who did not have access to fibre lines, including a school environment with poor-quality copper. According to Dennis Hinkel, senior vice-president of network operations for Cincinnati Bell, the decision to go with Actelis enabled the carrier to offer its 10Mb LAN Advantage Service up to DS3 services without having to install fibre.

“When we started working with Actelis and testing their product, we saw it as a way to…accelerate the revenue: since we have the copper available, we can get a service turned up quicker,” Hinkel explained. “It allows us to drive more bandwidth.”

According to David Perry, director of marketing for Actelis in Fremont, Calif., The MetaLIGHT 1500 is no lab project. The product works over any copper cable and can even tolerate cut lines.

“For the Cincinnati project, the copper pairs that the school was using were disqualified for usage,” Perry said. “We still used our technology over their disqualified lines and it has been working well. For a carrier to have to start qualifying all its copper, it gets really expensive.”

Still, although the MetaLIGHT 1500 has proven satisfactory for Cincinnati Bell, the carrier said that nothing can match the speeds and capacity of fibre.

“Fibre can drive speeds much higher than a DS3,” Hinkel said, but added that for some niche applications, the Actelis product was able to drive enough bandwidth. “Fibre…we still feel is the ultimate medium, but this was a way to both accelerate revenue and also leverage the infrastructure we had in place.”

However he noted that the MetaLIGHT boxes are more than just an interim solution; he said he sees no need to replace the solution even after a fibre build.

And Actelis said it is not suggesting MetaLIGHT 1500 as a replacement for copper. Perry explained that Actelis provides fibre-quality to areas where trenching fibre is next to impossible.

“In a metro area it gets very expensive to deploy fibre,” he said. “It’s even harder to get permission to dig up the streets to lay the fibre. It becomes a capital expenditure. Since copper is everywhere, carriers save money in not having to re-deploy fibre, and save time in deploying their services.”

The MetaLIGHT devices come with one DS3 interface as well as four DS1 interfaces for redundancy, and come in 4U rack-mountable units. Pricing for a pair of MetaLIGHT boxes starts at US$15,000. For details, visit the company on the Web at