IF YOU GO

What: Event name goes here

When: Time and date goes here

Where: Location goes here

Where: Location goes here

More info: Phone number and website go here. Make sure the website is a hyperlink.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is about to get connected with the help of a tribal owned company.

Now in its final stages, a nearly $46 million dollar project is expected to create a broadband network that will give more than 30,000 households and 1,000 businesses access to improved wireless Internet service and cell phone service.

An additional 1,100 community institutions, including public safety, health, social services and emergency care facilities are expected to benefit from the new infrastructure.

"It's a very complex project, and the Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the country," said Mike Scully, general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Wireless, first Navajo majority owned broadband company.

The company is a joint venture between the utility authority, which owns 51 percent of the company, and Commnet Wireless, which owns the rest.

The project began about three years ago, when the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded the utility authority a $32.2 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The utility authority committed another $11.3 million in contributions, and Commnet, another $2.2 million.

The company already is testing its project in select locations, which are spread across the Navajo Nation. The company's product eventually will be available from nearly half of the tribe's land, which spans about 27,000 square miles.

The area is notorious for shoddy cell phone and wireless Internet service.

The vastness of the land, and its lack of existing infrastructure, posed challenges throughout the project for those trying to create a network.

"It has a very unique terrain," Scully said.

Still, the company has completed most of the construction. The project includes 550 miles of fiber optic cable and 32 new communications towers.

Another 27 existing communications towers were modified.

The fiber optic cable, which is cable containing up to 1,000 fibers that can transport multiple terabytes in one second, will run between various locations.

The longest, spanning 161 miles, runs between Tohatchi and Tsaile, and the second-longest, 117 miles, will run between Farmington and Yah-ta-Hey.

Others range from 20 to 98 miles long.

Residents will be able to access the services, as will businesses in the cables' surroundings.

Depending on how isolated the cables are, the company also will be installing advanced networks in the most isolated areas.

"We're in the final phase," said Mike Hazel, director of operations and engineering at Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Wireless.

Hazel, who runs the company's control and data center in Shiprock, said it's only a matter of time before the services will be available to the communities, including many of the chapter houses.

Shiprock is already is hooked up to a trial cable, something that the chapter is considering using once the utility authority is ready to sell its product, chapter officials said.

The company's packages will start at about $28 per month for the most basic service, though the company has not decided what the most expensive package will be.

Company officials could not say when it would be ready to sell, though it likely be within the next few months, they said. They will be conducting trials during the next month or two.

"We're going to do this right," Scully said.

 

Jenny Kane may be reached at jkane@daily-times.com; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/Jenny_Kane.