Little Elm residents will soon have a few more choices when it comes to broadband service.
During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Carl Ahslund, CEO of Open Infra, Inc., updated the council on the company’s plans to construct a fiber optic system in the town.
Ahslund said the company is in the process of installing fiber optic infrastructure in the town as part of its expansion into Texas and the U.S.
The Sweden-based company is expanding having previously providing services in Sweden and Germany. Ahslund said the fully privately funded company mostly serves single-family homes.
Ahslund said Open Infra uses an open access model, which he said is new in the U.S. for internet.
He said Open Infra builds and operates the fiber optic infrastructure but does not provide internet service to the customers. Rather it leases its network to other operators.
“So it’s an open free market for anybody who wants to participate they can join in, they can provide services to the customers, be it internet, phone or TV,” Ahslund said.
Ahslund likened the model to the electricity provider option in Texas.
Ahslund said some of the providers signed up for Open Infra are Sling, Element 8, Yondoo Broadband, Starlight Fiber and Sumo Fiber.
“The benefit for the open access model for consumers is that it offers more choices, there’s more innovation and it gives smaller (internet service providers) a chance to compete with a superior product,” Ahslund said. “They don’t have to just do fixed wireless connection like they’re doing today. But they can compete with the Southern Link, AT&T, Homecast and everybody else and also offer symmetric 1-gigabit per second speed or better.”
Ahslund said Open Infra has 1 gigabit as a standard connection now, but it will soon upgrade to 10 gigabit.
Ahslund said the cost for service is usually lower in this model, adding that most providers is $75 to $80 per month for 1 gigabit symmetric. But he said the cost goes down with more options.
“Also service tends to be better because they know, again, people have a lot of choices,” Ahslund said.
He said after the first year customers can go month-to-month with the service.
Ahslund said Open Infra plans to invest $400 million over the next five years in a U.S. launch. He said that begins in DFW.
“North DFW is one of the fastest growing dynamic markets in the U.S.,” Ahslund said. “So this is a very good place for us to start.”
He said construction has started in Pilot Point and Paloma Creek.
Ahslund said there are opportunities for infrastructure to be put in place for town projects as well, such as public WiFi in parks or fiber optic connections for water and sewer controls.
“We see that an open network can be beneficial to towns as well,” Ahslund said. “While we’re building it doesn’t really cost us that much to add extra fiber for future purposes.”
Ahslund said the phasing plan for Little Elm is Paloma Creek South in Phase 1, with the first customers set to be active by the end of June. Phase 2, which has a construction start date of late July, is set to include neighborhoods north of Paloma Creek South and near Little Elm Park. The third quarter of the project is expected begin in the first quarter of 2022.
Council members urged Open Infra to consider including more parts of Little Elm in its plans, such as the west side and the Lobo Lane area.
“That would be a huge benefit for the Cottonwood Park development to have good internet down there,” Councilman Michael McClellan said.