Mediacom chooses Nokia PON tech for rural networks

Mediacom will harness Nokia's passive optical network (PON) technology for the deployment of fiber networks in rural, underserved communities, the two companies announced this week.

Nokia’s XGS-PON systems and equipment will help Mediacom, the fifth largest cable operator in the U.S., provide multi-gigabit broadband service in new locations across its 22-state footprint. The cable operator will deploy Nokia’s chassis-based optical line terminals (OLTs) and node-based OLTs, enclosed in small, non-conditioned cabinets, on strands or utility poles as they’re able to withstand harsh outside environments.

PON technology is often used in fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployments, where optical fibers are directly connected to homes or businesses, providing high-speed internet and other services.

Dell’Oro Group designated Nokia as the largest global provider of XGS-PON — a PON capable of symmetrical 10-gig speeds — with seven out of ten homes in the U.S. with fiber using Nokia’s equipment. Mediacom SVP Tom Larsen said the operator also chose Nokia because of its leadership in finding solutions that will help comply with the Biden Administration’s Buy American regulations.

Mediacom currently delivers broadband to 3.3 million homes and businesses across 22 states. The majority of the operator’s existing systems are hybrid-fiber-coax, but the company has been deploying FTTH in greenfield projects for several years, Larsen told Fierce Telecom.  

“We also have a long history of building fiber solutions for enterprise and commercial clients,” he said.

Mediacom has active FTTH greenfield projects in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Minnesota that will reach about 25,000 new homes and businesses. According to Larsen, the operator also has a large project underway in Iowa to upgrade its HFC plant to the new 10G platform that will soon be expanding into other markets.

Omdia Principal Analyst Jaimie Lenderman noted cable operators are deploying FTTH for greenfield and overbuilding with next-generation PON technologies more often, including XGS-PON and 25G-PON, “because of their inherent energy efficiency and almost unlimited scalability, underscoring the MSO green networking strategy.”

Mediacom has been active in pursuing broadband expansion grants across its footprint and has “dozens of pending applications across multiple states currently,” said Larsen. “We hope to be adding tens of thousands of new homes and businesses to our construction pipeline in the coming year.”

The company will "partly" use state and federal grant programs to deploy the Nokia-powered PON networks, a funding source Mediacom is no stranger to. 

In March, Mediacom collected $13.4 million in grant funding from the state of Alabama to help extend broadband to nearly 20,000 locations there. Also this year, the company scooped up $28.4 million to build to 8,260 locations in Georgia.

Mediacom told Fierce that since these PON buildouts are multi-year projects, they don’t really track the total grant amount that will go into them. However, the company currently has about $120 million of Wireline Competition Bureau projects ongoing, with the split between Mediacom's contribution and the state grant contribution "roughly 50/50," or around $60 million each.