Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Calix helps Bandera Electric build smart grid fibre network

Steve Rogerson
September 4, 2018

Texas-based Bandera Electric is building a fibre network for smart grid and broadband services with Calix cloud, whole home wifi and Axos products. On a single Calix-powered fibre network, Bandera can support distributed energy, smart grid automation, meter reading and gigabit broadband services for residents and businesses.
Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC) is using Calix products throughout its fibre network (known as BEC Fiber) and in its subscribers’ premises in the Texas Hill country. The Calix Axos E7-2 intelligent modular system and whole home wifi deliver end-to-end connectivity throughout BEC’s fibre network, while Calix Support Cloud ensures that the customer support team is positioned with analytics, insights and remote management capabilities.
Serving more than 26,000 members across seven counties, this electric cooperative expanded with the BEC Fiber service connecting its first subscribers in 2017. BEC Fiber wants to reach all members with its fibre broadband service in the coming years. To date, BEC Fiber has already secured 4000 residential pre-registrations and is providing local schools with 10Gbit connectivity.
In addition, the fibre network will serve as the foundation for BEC’s smart grid, as well as its renewable energy subsidiary, BEC Solar, which provides solar and energy storage alternatives for its members.
“We are now in the information age, and we can see the needs of our members – and our business – evolving,” said William Hetherington, CEO of BEC. “As a member-owned cooperative, BEC is ideally positioned to address those needs.”
On the electric side of the business, BEC has members interested in its renewable energy alternatives including the solar panels, Tesla power walls and electric vehicle charging stations.
“This interest is driving growth in our distributed generation and battery storage products, providing additional revenue to BEC Solar, and cost savings for all our members,” said Hetherington. “Connecting it all with a robust fibre communications platform is critical to the efficiency and effectiveness of our network services. Calix has helped us converge our broadband and smart grid services into a single, reliable fibre network that is delivering the best member wifi experience in our market. Fibre and world-class wifi connectivity are essential to our success both now and into the future, and we are thrilled to be partnering with Calix to lay this foundation today.”
As the fibre project expands, the Calix Giga centres, 804 Mesh satellites and Support Cloud will play roles in assuring the delivery of the broadband experience. BEC members are already said to be excited about the whole home wifi services and 804 Mesh satellites that will provide the coverage needed to bring service to every corner of a home or business.
Calix Support Cloud lets BEC Fiber manage the network remotely, using real-time data to reduce service call times, reduce truck rolls and improve member satisfaction.
While BEC's members have shown a strong interest in broadband service across its underserved communities, improving the electric system with smart grid automation and support for renewable energy has also been a driving force to build the fibre network.
As a Tesla business partner, BEC sees energy storage, energy efficiency and distributed generation as growing parts of its business. With the end goal of a system-wide fibre network connecting members' homes and businesses, BEC can execute its renewable energy programme, as well as deploy meter reading and distributed energy management to enhance the operational efficiency of its electric business. As BEC introduces additional smart grid applications to its network, the cooperative can use its existing Calix infrastructure, which should reduce capital expenses while improving business operations.
“In the past, water and electricity were table stakes for economic development in a rural market,” said Michael Weening, executive vice president at California-based Calix. “When a company decides on where to open its new plant or office, it needs to know that it has the infrastructure it needs to be successful. Without a doubt, gigabit fibre services are now as important to a region’s development as electricity and water were historically. That is why we are seeing unprecedented interest and momentum with municipal, electric cooperative and fibre over-builders as they enable the next level of prosperity for their members.”
He said that forward-looking electric cooperatives such as BEC were partnering with Calix and Tesla to bring world-class communications and energy infrastructures to improve their communities.
“Thanks to the future proof nature of Axis, the world’s only software defined access OS, and the ability to bring new services to market first, BEC Fiber is equipped to ensure that they and their members stay in a leading position well into the future,” said Weening.
Established in 1938, BEC is member owned and provides electric services, including renewable energy, in all or parts of Bandera, Bexar, Kendall, Kerr, Medina, Real and Uvalde counties. BEC Solar operates in central and southern Texas and offers customisable solar installations, arrays, maintenance and energy management through Apolloware.
BEC Solar is one of four Tesla Powerwall certified installers in Texas. BEC Fiber broadband provides speeds up to 1Gbyte to residential and business users.
Calix is a provider of cloud and software platforms, systems and services required to deliver the unified access network and smart premises.