FiberLight pours $20M into autonomous highway project in Texas

Fiber network infrastructure provider FiberLight is aiming to fuel future economic development in Texas. And it's eyeing autonomous vehicles to do so.

The company is investing $20 million, in partnership with the Autonomy Institute, to construct a 100-mile fiber network along Texas’ State Highway 130 near Austin. Once the network’s complete, FiberLight will provide high-speed 10 and 100 Gbps connectivity to Public Infrastructure Network Nodes (PINNs) across 92 miles of the highway.

PINNs are basically small data centers that will house equipment “and other integrated intelligent infrastructure” connecting autonomous vehicles, farming equipment, robotic manufacturing machinery, etc., said Ron Kormos, chief strategy officer at FiberLight.

“We see the deployment of autonomous infrastructure as a catalyst to not only cars but will deliver large bandwidth to the rural areas along major highways,” he told Fierce Telecom. “As a fiber optic telecommunications company, you have to continually look at where the future is going and be ready to be a part of it.”

FiberLight is currently working on the engineering portion of the project, said Kormos. Once that’s done, it will apply for permits from Texas’ Department of Transportation to build the “multi-duct fiber system.”

The company and the Autonomy Institute are using their investment to create the region’s first “intelligent infrastructure economic zone.”

“The use of autonomous trucks will increase production and reduce downtime, it will create tremendous economic opportunity for the area,” Kormos said. “Also there will be secondary advantages from the increased connectivity and bandwidth, state of the art wireless, 5G, Wi-Fi 6e that will fuel economic, commercial and residential growth to more rural and underserved areas.”

FiberLight currently operates in over 430 U.S. cities and is looking to grow its footprint through both lit and dark fiber builds, CEO Bill Major told Fierce in November.

Major at the time said FiberLight has two “active opportunities right now” in Virginia and Texas and is exploring a “pure asset play” where it would acquire conduit and dark fiber.

In Texas alone, Kormos said FiberLight connects over 300 towns and cities as well as more than 200 “last mile and Wireless ISPs.”

“Before FiberLight built out its 12,000 miles in Texas these small last mile carriers had very few options for bandwidth,” he explained. “Because they do not operate off our fiber many towns, sub divisions and cities had few or no options.”

Once the SH 130 project is complete, the FiberLight network will support “autonomous mobility districts, public safety, and response, as well as distributed work centers,” the company said in a press release.