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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BayRing to launch new high-speed fiber-optic network this summer

New Hampshire’s first competitive telephone provider still is expanding almost two decades later, with a large new fiber-optic ring set to go online soon – although it’s data rather than voices that drives the industry now.

BayRing, based in Portsmouth, says the new 240-mile-long backbone line that runs through Hudson, Nashua and Merrimack, among other places, will make a big difference to its customers, by expanding the company footprint and increasing the amount of data it can handle.

“It replaces some of our existing network and increases capacity by 10 to 100 fold, depending on where in the network you are,” said CEO Ben Thayer.

BayRing was founded in 1996 as the first Competitive Local Exchange Carrier in New Hampshire or Maine, at a time when telephone deregulation was exploding. The number of such CLEC firms grew and then shrank as the industry adapted.

These days it is business customers’ need for Internet connection and data sharing, as much as for telephone service, which drives firms like BayRing.

The new BayRing network uses fiber-optic cables, which carry information as light rather than electricity, giving them vastly more capacity, to create a superior backbone for the company. It joins other fiber-optic networks already installed.

Fiber-optic backbones are at the heart of modern telecommunications. FairPoint, for example, has installed many in New Hampshire as a backbone for its services, even when it doesn’t take fiber all the way to the home via its FAST service.

Similar fiber backbones are being strung from utility poles in western and northern New Hampshire through public-private efforts to increase Net connectivity in under-served parts of the state.

As is suggested by the company’s name, the BayRing network is literally a ring, which is a common arrangement for networks because it provides alternate traffic paths if there’s a break in the line.

Expected to go live this summer, the ring circles from Portsmouth through Salem and Nashua, then north through Merrimack and Manchester before heading back to the Seacoast.

The company said it will carry voice and Internet traffic at a transmission rate of 10 gigabits, or 10,000 megabits, per second. That is at least 100 times the rate of the speediest downloads available for standard at-home broadband over cable modem or fiber-to-the-home. It uses DWDM, or dense wavelength division multiplexing, which is one of several technologies that increase the amount of data carried by fiber optic cables by using various wavelengths of light.

“We look at ourselves as a bit of a niche player, for those who demand the highest-end telecom and voice services,” Thayer said.

The private firm declines to give sales, but has customers throughout New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, plus a few national customers. It has about 100 employees.

Thayer said the recession has been a “double-edged sword” for BayRing. It has made some customers pull back, but it has also made companies “more willing to look at alternative carriers, more interested in saving money.”

Saving money is the main reason The Telegraph switched to BayRing telephones last year. The savings come partly because it is a leased rather than company-owned telephone system. It is also based on Internet protocol rather than traditional switched networks, which adds flexibility.

This newspaper still uses FairPoint for its Internet and data connections.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.