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Chicago Broadband Provider Plans to Expand Capacity of Wireless Towers

August 20, 2014

Chicago Broadband Provider Plans to Expand Capacity of Wireless Towers

By Michelle Nicolson
TMCnet Contributing Writer

The strain caused by an explosion of wireless data traffic in the Chicago area may be eased as a local broadband provider plans to use its fiber-optic network to increase the capacity of approximately 2,000 wireless towers over the next three years, according to an article in Crain’s Chicago Business.

It’s a plan with big benefits for wireless carriers, who traditionally rely on copper wire to carry data between towers. Since fiber-optic cable has a much larger data capacity, bandwidth will increase by tapping into a fiber-optic network.

Wide Open West (WOW) is a broadband provider operating in the downtown area as well as 22 city suburbs. The company says it plans to lay new fiber-optic lines or tap into unused capacity on currently installed lines to increase the capacity of data networks for wireless carriers.

"Consumer hunger for new media-rich mobile communications, coupled with the dynamic explosion of voice, data and video traffic, is driving wireless carriers to increase bandwidth at their cell sites," said Brad Cheedle, senior vice president of WOW's business broadband unit.

WOW said the company plans to add 1,200 miles of fiber for wireless carriers as well as install new equipment, such as transmitters and receivers, on some towers. The expansion will increase the company’s footprint by about 50 percent.

The wireless networks that will benefit from the expansion have yet to be named. However, it’s likely to attract the attention of the major players in the region as they work to find new ways to expand their data capacity.

“If you listen to the (wireless) carriers, they’re planning to spend billions in the next few years to offload as much data traffic as they can from their networks onto fiber,” said Mike Underdown, chief operating officer at Mokena-based Comdesco Group Inc., in an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business. “The smartphones we hold in our hands are more powerful than the desktops we had 10 years ago. They’ve all got to be connected to the network.”

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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