With about 125 miles of fiber optic cable now being laid to serve Statesboro and Hinesville, Hargray Communications will become the fifth provider of fiber-based, high-speed Internet service in the Statesboro market.
That total mileage includes cables being buried across rural stretches to connect the two new markets to Hargray's existing system from points near Savannah and Pooler.
Locally, the system will consist at first of a 15-mile loop encompassing most of Statesboro, said Chris McCorkendale, Hargray Communications' vice president for operations.
"We will initially build a fiber optic ring around and through Statesboro and put that network into service in order that we can serve customers off of that ring," he said, explaining that side cables will be installed to meet demand.
In both Statesboro and Hinesville, the company will initially focus on bringing businesses "last-mile optical fiber" to provide high-speed data, voice and video.
"We certainly wouldn't rule out residential services, but as we initially enter a market, we enter for purposes of being an alternative fiber-based provider for the business community," McCorkendale said.
Hargray, based in Hilton Head, S.C., is not the only company expanding to Statesboro recently, with the college town's abundance of student housing being an obvious draw. Although not as niche-specific as Pavlov Media's ongoing build, Hargray's plans do include apartment complexes in its definition of targeted businesses.
"Those highly concentrated, multi-tenant units are also properties that we would look to serve with voice, video and data," McCorkendale said.
"Last-mile fiber" means that the system uses optical fibers to bring the signal into or near the site, instead of converting the optical signal at a more distant point for delivery over copper wires.
"Because it's a direct fiber connection, it's all under our network," McCordendale said. "We're not hopping from one carrier to another. You're completely on net with us, so things like latency, packet loss, those sorts of things are significantly reduced."
Measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabits per second (Gbps), Internet speed capabilities give rise to complicated discussions. Speeds of 10 Mbps and slower are still common for residential service, but multiple gigabit speeds (1 Gbps = 1,000 Mbps) are now possible.
How fast can Hargray go? Speed can be customized to fit a commercial customer's needs. The 10-megabit range is about the low end where building fiber direct to customers becomes practical, according to McCorkendale.
"Once the fiber is there, really the speeds are a function of the electronics, so it can be 1 gig, 10 gig, really whatever the demands of the organization are," he said.
Similarly, when interviewed for a story last fall, spokespersons for Frontier Communications and Northland Communications said that their companies could custom deliver virtually any speed sought by business customers. Northland is now undertaking a system rebuild slated to be completed in late 2015, installing more fiber to increase capacity in and around Statesboro, Melanie Hannasch, Northland Communications vice president of marketing, said Monday.
Also counted among the five providers here, Bulloch Telephone offers fiber-based Internet service in the mainly rural areas it serves.
Pavlov Media, which is now completing a four-mile fiber optic ring to serve student housing complexes near Georgia Southern University, advertised a "10 gig," or 10 Gbps, maximum capability in announcing its Statesboro build. However, the Illinois-based company, which uses a trademarked prehosting service to speed the delivery of popular content, such as movie downloads, also offers 1 Gbps and 2 Gbps options.
Meanwhile, Hargray's marketing is aimed more broadly at all types of businesses with high-speed communication needs. Available voice options include Internet Protocol as well as traditional phone service. To companies with multiple locations within its service area, Hargray can provide metro Ethernet connections via optical fiber, McCorkendale said.
Service should be available in Statesboro beginning the fourth quarter of 2014, he said.
Hargray, born as a traditional telephone company more than 60 years ago, currently serves Bluffton, Hilton Head, Beaufort, Savannah and surrounding areas.
"We're a local company," McCorkendale said. "We have about 375 employees that are based locally. We'll be staffing Statesboro and Hinesville with technicians and sales people that will live, work and spend their time those markets, so we'll be available, we'll be responsive."
The company will have offices and server locations in both Statesboro and Hinesville.
Hargray looked at factors such as size, proximity and competition is deciding to move into the Statesboro market.
"We also look a lot at the town's desire, willingness, commitment, all of those sorts of things, and I met with multiple city and county leaders, and one of the things that attracted us was the willingness of the local leadership to embrace a new service provider," McCorkendale said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.