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5G4PGH Ep. 1: DQE Talks Fiber


In the Pittsburgh region, DQE is providing the fiber-optic transport required for delivering small cell service to supplement its 365,000 fiber miles that currently serve more than 2,000 buildings and nearly 120 office parks. 


Hey everybody. This is our first installment of the five g for Pittsburgh podcast series. I'm just so excited to having conversations around 5g technology because it is in the high ground has been amazing. It is literally starting to absolutely change the way we communicate and how we get business done. And there's so much horsepower here in Pittsburgh that is behind 5g and making it be the magic that it is. And I think it's only appropriate that we start at the literally foundations as to what makes 5g happen. And that's hanging out with Shawn blander here from dq he at the end of the day, everything wireless goes through a wire at some point, usually a piece of fiber as far as that goes. And I'm just so excited to learn more about how that works. And really the future of 5g and more importantly, how DQE has just been on the scene building fiber networks to be prepared for the crush what 5g is bringing to us and so Shawn, thank you for taking the time to talk to us and being part of This initiative, we think it's really fun and important stuff. So thanks for being here with us today.

Hey, Jonathan, great to be here. And thanks for the invitation. Appreciate it.

So Sean, what's your background? I know you've got some serious depth of experience when it comes to all things fiber. What What is your background? And what do you do at dq? a?

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I, I have 29 years of experience. I'm the Director of Operations for dq, he kind of broke into the industry in the 1990s. When fiber was really taking off, yeah, the foundation, you know, of all transmission. And I've seen a tremendous amount of change in technology in terms of platforms, of the delivery of services, from, you know, an asynchronous type transmission to synchronous and now we live in the Ethernet world, right? We do. Seeing the growth of fiber and really getting into using the full capabilities of fiber Over that time over my career, now we have the ability of using the full spectrum of light across fiber where we were handcuffed in the beginning.

I will talk about DQE real fast DQE is kind of a Pittsburgh institution at the end. I mean, it really is. I mean, when it comes to things fiber in Pittsburgh, DQE, as far as I'm concerned, yeah, you know, you know, we're blessed. You know, we truly are, you know, dq a, we're a metropolitan fiber optic company that delivers customer focused, focused solutions, you know, we own and maintain our network and we have a dedication to that over the last 20 years and been in the that we've been in the industry, you know, and you know, we're directly invested in that and And it really speaks to our integrity of how we build the fiber optic networks for our for our partners, you know, and you're expanding like crazy to like I see you're going out towards Altoona now like, yeah, West Virginia, it's like, Man, you guys are spreading out.

Yeah. You know, you know, to speak a little bit about our you know, our footprint you know, right now, you know, in southwestern pa we have the densest fiber network, compared to anyone, you know, we have 3800 miles of fiber.

Fiber man. Yeah, it

is. It is, you know, a lot. You know, Nat equivalents to over 370,000 fiber miles, you know, the, when we talk about 3800 miles, just, that's just a mile you would drive Right, right. overlay high counts of fiber to the extent of 144 288 In 576 fibers on top of that, okay, you get your fiber mouse. So, you know, we're operating with over 370,000 fibers across that mileage. You know,

I'm assuming like comparing to a place like Cleveland. We're kicking their butt, not just in football, but in. Yeah, yeah. Well, we do have that kind of footprint we do here in Pittsburgh, right. Yeah. You know, we're Pittsburghers. You know. I'm kicking Cleveland's button. all facets, right. You know, whether it's fiber sports, you know, we love it. Yeah, absolutely. Give us like a little tutorial about like how fiber plays into the whole thing with 5g. So we all know it's a signal that goes up at some point, that signal goes through a tower and then it has to go through a fiber network in order to get to the devices and get to the connections that it needs to get to how does that work for us?

Yeah, yeah. So you know, you know, fiber is the foundation of what five Jeannie And just like we, we just talked about, you know, fiber has been the foundation of this transmission of all signals, basically since its invention, or it's really proven ability since 1970. You know, Corning, you know, is is really, you know, takes the credit for, you know, giving fiber, its abilities and working through, you know, three engineers, you know, in Corning, in the 70s, you know, really solidified the characteristics of fiber right, in being able to transmit a signal not just for a mile, like its predecessor studies of Dr. Kyle did, okay. But they are credited for us being able to transmit you know, hundreds of miles now and be incensed that, you know, since that invention, it really laid the foundation for all the Plus forms that came. I didn't really know 70 When that happened, like that blew my mind.

I would have thought like the late 80s or something, right? Yeah, no, no, no, no, you know, it's, it's, it's interesting, you know, very interesting that you know, fiber actually dates back prior to even that one looks back to the 1800s. Any invention of fiber? Yeah, sure. Give me a history lesson.

Yeah, very cool. Okay.

Yeah, yeah, but it really wasn't sort of, in a sense, perfected for long distance, the ability to transmit over long distances how until like 1970 in recording, recording takes, you know, credit for note perfecting that. So, you know, those guys you know, at the end of the century here, in the 1900s, you know, 80% of long distance traffic is carried over fiber optic cables now. Yeah, and carry 65,000 times more information than copper ever did.

So his numbers are just stifling when you say that. And, yeah, yeah, so when fiber retired copper, it really wrote in became the foundation of every platform before even 2g, 3g, 4g. And now, you know, we're moving into you know, 5g characteristics.

So, so 5g has to have a fiber network in order to run it cannot be a copper. Yeah.

Yeah, no, no, you know, copper, you know, copper, all good. Although it is a good conductor. It has, it's very limited in its ability to transmit fast, right, transmit high bandwidth, okay, and transmit for long distances. You know, that's when we get into talking about latency there. And that's what 5g that's what the emergent ology is. All, Bob, that's what 5g is going to carry. So, you know, you know, essentially what 5g is going to do. It's going to increase the speeds over its previous generations 20 times. You know, today, you know, it's not too bad, you know, exactly.

You know, yeah, it's gonna be 20 times faster than that. And it needs to be because of all the connected devices that are expected to move in this technology.

Well, you know, my, my smartphone, so you know, it's, yeah, yeah. So, you know, you know, 5g isn't really reinventing anything that 2g, 3g and 4g did, it's just creating a platform to allow access of millions of more devices, across facets of industries to give it the faster and higher bandwidth latency, connections and latency. We could talk a little bit about latency that latency is the key. So no, to answer your question, the way we're working today is that you have a concentration of devices that access towers. Great. You know, and that concentration is accessing towers from miles away, right? Well, imagine with the development of 5g and all the technology of these devices that are going to come out across three different facets of, of cases. You know, the concentration access is just going to crush 4g, and it crushed that access and won't be able to carry miles. To get the access to it. We have to bring that access down to the streets to the street level, okay, because the concentration of all these devices needs to happen in a 1200 square foot area.

Okay, yeah. Okay.

Because of the high bandwidth and the faster speeds that the devices are going to need, you have to give the access to it in a smaller concentrated area. So that's where small cells come in small cells.

See on the buildings and yeah, like that, right?

Yeah, exactly. Right, exactly right. So it's really taking all those antennas off the towers and dividing them, putting them into a mass amount and bringing them down to the street level. So everybody in a concentrated areas, say like South Side around cheesecake and hopper house, and that whole area, when people are engaging as a public user or a private user in business, in outside of business, they all the devices have to have that access. And we're talking millions of more devices and to be able to get the speed and bandwidth they need. They have to be able to access it closer at the street level. So that's where small cell comes in. And all these devices are going to be spread apart about 1200 square feet. So that concentration of people or devices in that area, will all have the ability to have the benefits of high speed and bandwidth. You know, it started a while ago, you know, in NFL and sports arenas. Yes. No, remember, you know, you're sitting in a Steeler game. Right? And you know, and you know, when we're in 2g and 3g lambos wanted to call our best buddy, didn't you? Did you see Hines Ward? Just make that play candy Crush right in the system.

My phone's not working. Right. I can't get signal. I wanted to tell Johnny that. Well, that's what 5g is gonna do. It's gonna allow everybody to have access at a mass amount of devices. You know, in seamlessly and transparent

Yeah. So much opportunity then. But in order for this opportunity to happen, you got to have that fiber network to support it. That's what you guys are more than well prepared for because obviously, I mean, you talk about your footprint, and you're growing that footprint. It's like, Man, you guys have been ahead of this curve. It seems like for quite a while.

Yeah, yeah, we have, you know, we have, we've, we've, we do proper planning, you know, we seen the future, because we're so part of the evolution over the last 20 years of what devices and technology and apparatuses that deliver the signals need. So, you know, over the, you know, over the last three or four years, we've invested heavily in the integrity of our network, and we've built some major sections of our Metropolitan network to be able to prepare to handle all those needs, right. In regards to fiber.

I'm assuming you've seen your customer needs really changed because they're seeing this and they're preparing to have them return. Have more work? Yeah, they are, you know, just just in the way the macro development is today, you know, they get away with two to four or five hours. And he can transmit everything that 4g is doing on that kind of platform. But when we move a five to one that down to the street level, yeah, no, the radios are the small cells are going to need an increased fiber because, you know, the concentration of devices that need access to the network. So, you know, we anticipate that, you know, our customers are going to need upwards to 24 fibers. Wow. Wow.

Look at six times six fold increase. Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. Because they want to prepare for the growth like each radio have a small so sort of has four radios in it. Okay, each radio will need two to four fibers itself, you know, so that's like 16 fibers across four radios and then No, they obviously want maintenance and stuff. buffering and there's we expect that they're gonna want 24 fibers for that. So we've invested heavily in the integrity of our network.

Yeah, DQE is just known for its reliability. I mean, that is like the one thing like I said before, it's like, it's like rock solid stuff. I just find it so amazing that like, you guys are this this quiet thing you never think about, like we take for granted that like, our phones are working. And we're gonna take for granted when we all get 5g phones and we're doing crazy new stuff we ever thought we could do with our phones and it's happening instantaneously. It's because there's fiber that's making that work. That's Yeah, you know, that's correct. And, you know, that spans the emergence of technologies expanding, you know, to talk about artificial intelligence. Yes, no virtual reality. You know, cities want to be smart cities now. They want video cameras, access to all those records, smart homes, even in the residential community, smart homes, you know, all these devices, smart TVs, you know, Not just you know, you know the cell phone devices anymore right but you know your your gaming industry is is huge and upcoming when we talk about you know, media you know look at look at what the universities are doing when they're developing their Esports programs right exactly right. And they're gonna have sports teams playing soccer robots against exactly there can be no latency with that either.

Fiber so the fiber is the foundation of all this and you know, you know, our fiber network is a perfect complement to five G's emerging technologies and we're prepared for it we are and that's why I'm so glad we got to talk to you It's why I thought this is the perfect way to kick off our five g prevent podcast series we got to go where it all happens where the base of it all and that is with the fiber as a dq does it like showing you gave me a history lesson today, which I thoroughly enjoy. I gotta learn a little bit more about that. Like how dense This is gonna be, and it's gonna keep growing and growing. And best of all that there's a Pittsburgh company that's at the forefront of this. Yeah, you guys are awesome, man. I just love it. such cool stuff. Oh, we appreciate it, man. We appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks for taking care of us. You know, and thinking about us here. We're prepared for Yeah, yeah. You know, put a spotlight on that anything we missed? We haven't covered that yet. People need to know about either DQE or about 5g in general.

Yeah, you know, um, you know, you know, our footprint, you know, just go back to our footprint, over 1300 miles, you know, to, you know, to let everybody know, you know, across that 370,000 route miles, you know, we passed 2200 buildings, you know, 118 business parks, and 15 data centers we have connected so, you know, all those technologies, you know, in all those, you know, service buildings we connect, you know, even makes us even more prepared for you know, Really, and you know, our footprint is vast, you know, we go from Sharon hermitage of north of Pittsburgh all the way across South cross the border, West Virginia in Morgantown of Fairmont you know next time Warren all the way in Indiana pa and we have great expansions like you were mentioning before we you know we're we're on a march all the way up to Harrisburg. I like it it's on the Philadelphia right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Next stop Philly, right. It's a 400 mile build for us a 400 mile. A lot of fiber man.

You know, along that route to be able to prepare for 5g we're making stops in Johnstown Altoona state called Sharpsburg Mechanicsburg all the way to Harrisburg. So you know, those are all places that can really benefit from this because it Oh, yeah, them to everything else so much faster. So, yeah, that's just the tech play. But it's also community play because now we're bringing the world closer together, right.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And you know the benefits of you know, all those, you know, smaller cities and not a big Metropolitan like Pittsburgh, you know is or Philly and Harrisburg certainly is a sizable market but the benefits to the rural broadband market and having you know our customers preparing to deliver 5g will have in place what a fiber in place for them and those markets as well. Very cool. So I can't thank you enough for taking taking the time hanging out with us giving us a lowdown on all things 5g and fiber. DQE is part of the 5G4PGH nitiative. And of course, Crown Castle and AT&T are psrt of it as well. Transcribed by