Learn what we’re up to through the latest podcast interview with Erica Caldon and Jennifer Winters of Tangent and our Business Development Manager, Jules Ung.  A transcribed copy of the interview follows below. 

 

  1. Tell us about yourself and your work at Banyan Networks

Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you and share a bit about myself and Banyan Networks.  Pacific Network Group, LLC dba Banyan Networks incorporated in January 2020.  Formerly under Scientel Solutions, the newly formed company allows leadership to focus on the Hawai‘i and Pacific Rim Markets. Additionally, with the Company owner and all assets being based solely in the US, the opportunity to work in the Federal Sector is now available.

 

My role at Banyan Networks is a Business Development Manager.  I’m currently focused on developing new strategic partnerships in the Federal sector as well as the hospitality industry.  Additionally, I am focusing on rural broadband to reduce the digital divide, enhance e-learning, and enable telemedicine.

 

Formerly I served as IT Director at the County of Hawai‘i under Mayor Harry Kim. During the 4-year appointed term from 2016 to 2020, we mitigated several major catastrophic natural disasters including the 2018 Kilauea Eruption that destroyed over 700 homes, Hurricane Lane which caused hundreds of millions in damage due to flooding and high winds, and several other high wind events and brushfires. Mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic consumed the majority of  time and resources in 2020. The Department of IT that I oversaw provided the essential capabilities or mission critical communications for our first responders and executive leadership to respond, organize, and coordinate efforts efficiently and effectively.  Our fiber and MPLS networks and integrated microwave radio systems served our Emergency response teams including Civil Defense, Fire, Police, and all of the mission critical business processes that support local government.

 

During the span of those 4 critical years I developed an incredibly deep appreciation for the resiliency of our fiber network and the capability for wireless systems to integrate with MPLS and fiber backhaul.  My passion is to reinforce, build out, and enhance the network infrastructure that we depend on for day to day communications including business operations, remote workers, distance learning, telemedicine, emergency management, and just making critical connections to the people in our lives.

 

My experience with the government networks at the County of Hawai‘i crosses over to the Enterprise side of the industry.  Now I have the opportunity to focus on new areas and a broader scope.  It’s really empowering to be able to expand to new areas and provide solid networking solutions with a winning team during this time of critical need.

  1. We heard that Banyan Networks is looking to bridge the Digital Divide with rural areas. Please expand on that.

Our Federal Government is currently providing funding through legislature to provide broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities.  Our State of Hawai‘i Broadband Strategy Officer is working to secure federal funding to provide access to underserved communities throughout the State as well as to enable digital literacy and equity.

 

Banyan Networks is currently developing a partnership with the State of Hawai‘i Office of Broadband Strategy and community organizations to identify areas of need and provide broadband access to those areas.  Aside from the challenges of a diverse environment (think rolling topography, steep mountainsides, and dense native forests), carriers have many challenges to providing access for these communities throughout Hawai‘i.  Between challenging land features and sparsely populated areas, the profitability forecast to provide service to these areas is slim to none which is why these areas remain without high-speed access.

 

Success will depend on partnering with the right organizations and developing a sustainable operational model to ensure that broadband infrastructure is maintained and utilized to it’s potential.  In the past, the State has successfully implemented models such as Pu‘uhonua O Waimanalo with unique community ownership and operations.

  1. You’ve come up with a great game plan for Hawai‘i; have you thought of expanding/applying that to the mainland?

As we build out our local presence, we’ll definitely be interested in expanding our presence on the mainland and we’re open to exploring partnerships as well.

  1. Does microwave play a big part in public communications systems?  

Yes, microwave radio systems are the foundation of wireless communications –  Banyan Networks is uniquely positioned as an integrator.  We specialize in the integration between microwave radio and fiber backhaul.

 

This provides redundancy and the highest availability in case one system fails, communications can fail over to the other system.

  1. What challenges have you encountered building a government public network? Permitting? Construction?

Surprisingly, by the time you get to permitting and construction, the most challenging parts are over.  To build out a government network takes a tremendous amount of coordination between executive leadership and gaining priority in the way that tax dollars are allocated.

 

Often, critical infrastructure including roads, sewer lines, waterlines, public transportation, festivals & events, public parks, and pools, all of these very visible parts of our communities take precedence.

 

The pandemic has created the nexus for building out both public and private networks.  So, getting buy in from Constituents, Council, and Executive Leadership is key.  Once executive leadership has prioritized the build-out, then everything else can fall into place with strong project management, and key partnerships.

  1. Is Wireless Internet Services in Banyan’s future plans? Providing internet services to the general public in addition to government? 

Currently, Banyan Networks is researching the feasibility of offering internet services in underserved and unserved rural areas.  There are isolated communities throughout the state that lack basic infrastructure – not just broadband but foundational needs such as water and electricity.

 

Banyan typically manages mission critical networks with high-end infrastructure.  So our model speaks to emergency management.   The questions that we are asking now in regard to providing internet services to a diversified user base, are along the lines of:

  1. How do we provide the most value to our community?
  2. Who would benefit most from our services?
  3. How to we sustainably implement a network to be maintained and operated into the future?

 

There are many sustainable models in rural and tribal communities throughout our nation who have creative solutions in place, and we’re looking at those models now.

  1. We’ve spoken with several guests about emerging technology from Hawai‘i lately; there seems to be a growing trend of Hawai‘i’s dedication to modernizing communication & network systems and focusing on tech-forward solutions that will last. Has this always been the case?

Native Hawaiian’s were forward-thinking in an environment of abundance.  Modern day dependencies have highlighted issues with our infrastructure as well as supply chains.

 

So moving back in a sense, to more sustainable models will move our economy and culture forward.

 

Embracing innovation and technology is key – Hawaiians knew how to navigate the oceans by looking at the stars.  Much like Native Hawaiians used the light from distant stars to navigate the high seas, our leaders in government are investing in DWDM optical networking technology to push a hundred times more data through the same fiber optic infrastructure.

 

Future-proofing network systems starts with solid engineering and infrastructure followed by routine maintenance.  The convergence of network technologies allows for higher availability and reliability of communications.

 

We are moving ourselves forward with technology so we can get back to where we were – grounded, sustainable, and surrounded by abundance.  Healthcare, education, work, and government services can all take place where there is sufficient capacity – and for many Hawai‘i Residents – that could be at home in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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