Building a city of more than 70,000 residents in an isolated area from nothing but farmland and dreams took vision. Not just on the part of developers and community leaders, but the companies that shouldered the risk of investing in the infrastructure and services required to facilitate such growth.
Orbitel Communications, one of those Maricopa “OGs,” did what other cable and internet providers simply wouldn’t.
Mike Ingram of El Dorado Holdings approached Orbitel in 2001 as he developed some of the first homes in Maricopa. Orbitel shared his vision to create a community with affordable housing within proximity of jobs in the Valley. When other communications companies refused, Orbitel agreed to construct a state-of-the-art communications network in Maricopa and to become a full-service communications provider, investing millions of dollars in Maricopa’s economy.
“Other companies would not do it — it was too far away, too much work, too expensive,” said Bryan Johnson, Orbitel’s director of marketing. Instead, the company partnered with the developers, and in 2002 was awarded the franchise license to connect its first customer.
Progress continued when the city granted Orbitel a cable TV franchise in 2004, and the company opened its customer service center and local office in the Bashas’ shopping center the following year. In 2006, Orbitel added telephone to its existing cable TV and high-speed data offerings.
Today, Orbitel is an integral member of the community, providing service to thousands of homes and tens of thousands of residents. Its offices are based in Maricopa and its staff lives, works and contributes to the growth and quality of life enjoyed by all who live and visit Maricopa.
While Orbitel’s presence in the community has been a constant over the past two decades, the product and service offerings changed with the rapid advancements in technology.
The company’s first internet offerings were speeds of 64 and 512 kilobits per second (Kbps). Today it offers “gig speed” connections of 1 million Kbps, or a gigabit — 100 times faster than 20 years ago.
The addition of dual elimination system backups provides an alternate route for the signal, so internet service doesn’t go out if a line is compromised, improving the quality of service to Maricopans.
“We have redundancies in place that didn’t exist before, and that improves the reliability of our service dramatically,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Orbitel will launch a new video product later this year. The company will replace the old-style DVRs that include a hard drive, with an IPTV concept featuring a small box like a Hulu subscriber might have. Customers will plug into the box and download the Orbitel app, allowing all channels to stream over the internet rather than older coaxial lines.
He also expects next year to see an upgrade to the company’s website, which will introduce an e-commerce component for customers to order services, schedule appointments and chat with a representative.
The advancements will continue to expand as tech capability grows and Orbitel’s commitment to the city will continue to grow with it, Johnson said.
“All of our new-builds in Maricopa are fiber to the home,” he said. “We are no longer putting coax in the ground. We have our eyes firmly fixed on the future and if we do anything, we’ll overbuild. We want to be ahead of the curve. We’d much rather overbuild than play catch-up in a city growing as fast as Maricopa.”
Johnson added that Maricopa is a huge priority for Orbitel, which has grown its service area to include Sun Lakes and Saddlebrooke.
“The city of Maricopa has been a great partner since we first got going,” he said. “All 31 of our employees live and work here in town and spend their money here as well. Maricopa is a significant portion of our business, so we give it a lot of attention.
“It’s been a challenging process to keep up with the growth here, but we are doing it.”
The October edition of InMaricopa Magazine is in Maricopa mailboxes and available online.