As technology advances, fiber optic network connectivity is playing an increasingly pivotal role in state and local physical infrastructure. This can include municipal traffic systems as well as larger elements like state toll roads from Pennsylvania to Illinois and beyond. In this article, we’ll look at how some states have approached this significant investment, and how to maximize its benefits well into the future.
Estimating bandwidth requirements can be the most challenging aspect on the technical side of planning a new fiber network. In this particular application, there is little downside to building in as much excess capacity as your new network buildout as your budget allows, for the following reasons:
Bandwidth requirements in the future will only increase. For example, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is planning to install their own fiber optic network to accommodate toll collection, traffic cameras, electric road signs, and other internal communication needs. The fiber network became necessary because of the increase in demand in the eastern part of the state. This dramatic increase in usage stemmed from the switch to an entirely cashless toll system that the existing microwave network could no longer support. As the rest of the state (west of Harrisburg) begins to make the same switch, the capacity will be there to support it.
Excess capacity can be turned into a source of revenue for the toll road authority. The cash inflow from leasing dark fiber to carriers or local emergency services can total millions of dollars annually, which can be used to cover the initial capital investment, support continued network maintenance, or be re-allocated for general infrastructure maintenance purposes. The Pennsylvania Turnpike plans on leasing over 60% of its network capacity at the outset, following the successful model enacted by the Illinois Tollway in and around the greater Chicago area.
Outside of technical planning, developing the right financial structure for a massive infrastructure project is critical. For example, Pennsylvania initially explored a public-private partnership, but could not come to an agreement. Instead, they have moved forward with their own plans, and are soliciting contractors over the next year.