Cable Vets Help MSOs Fight Fiber With Fiber

DENVER — Backed by a group of cable vets and a fresh batch of cash, Deep Fiber Solutions emerged from stealth mode at last week’s Cable-Tec Expo in Denver to pitch a product and procedure that helps cable operators rapidly swap out coax for fiber — without digging up the street or requiring a construction permit.

Formed in 2013, Roswell, Ga.- based Deep Fiber Solutions centers its business on “coax core ejection,” a patented technique whereby a special water-based soap solution is pumped into the coax to compress the dielectric polyethylene foam core, allowing for the easy ejection and evacuation of the legacy coax core and the insertion/blowing-in of fresh fiber.

Deep Fiber Solutions entered the business after purchasing the exclusive license for coax core ejection in the United States from Kabel-X Austria and Kabel-X USA, which did some work with MSOs such as Buckeye CableSystem before it pulled back its U.S. cable business in 2008. Kabel-X still holds the license for copper twisted pair.

“We’re about better, faster, cheaper construction using the cable operator’s legacy coax network,” Mark Davis, Deep Fiber Solutions’ executive vice president of technology and business development, said.

Davis, who is late of BigBand Networks, AT&T Broadband and Imagine Communications, said the mobile system-on-wheels is capable of removing and replacing 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet of coax line per day “with an experienced crew.”

The company’s target construction price is in the range of $3 per foot, Davis said, noting that the average is usually about $10 and can be as high as $30 per foot in some metro areas on the West Coast.

Because the system uses existing cable lines and does not require construction permits, operators can sidestep some risks often seen with fiber extension builds, such as hitting gas, sewer or water lines. “Our job is to make sure you don’t get on the nightly news,” Davis joked.

Davis said several popular use cases for the company’s method have emerged so far, including node splits, the extension of fiber to commercial installations, including cell towers for backhaul services, as well as residential-focused fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-curb projects.

Regarding cell backhaul, some operators have coax 90% of the way to a given cell site. Using this new cable-yanking approach, operators can inexpensively remove old coax, justifying the new fiber build for the last 500 feet or so to the cell site. “Now the business case for cell sites is very compelling,” Davis said.

Davis estimates 2 million miles of hardline coaxial cable are deployed in North America, with about half of it installed underground. “That gives us a pretty big addressable market,” he said.

He said Deep Fiber Solutions has three “major” cable operators under contract, and work is already underway in four markets, with another two expected to join the list next month. Davis said he believes the company will be active in at least 10 markets by the start of 2015.

Deep Fiber Solutions has about 20 employees, and closed a $7 million “A” round in December 2013. The company has access to another $3 million in working capital debt, but could seek out a series “B” if demand continues to balloon, Davis said.

Deep Fiber Solutions has several recognizable cable names on its team. Among them, CEO Curt Hockemeier once served as interim CEO of Cedar Point Communications (now part of Genband) and was the executive vice president and chief operating off er of telephony operations at AT&T Broadband, and also held posts at Cox Communications. Alex Best, the retired former chief technology officer of Cox Communications, is an independent board member of Deep Fiber Solutions.