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10/30/2002 - Zero dB Dazzles with Engineering Pizzazz

Anyone who thinks all engineers are like Dilbert, and engineering is boring hasn’t talked with Joel Zimmermann, President of Zero dB. For Zimmermann, engineering is the most fascinating discipline possible, and after listening to him for fifteen minutes, many would have to agree.

Zero dB --- smooth signal, no noise --- is a communications engineering consulting company whose world headquarters is in the Hutton Building at 9 S. Washington. Their slogan, “Engineering the Speed of Light,” actually describes what they do. Their clients are local and international. Clients include long haul signal carriers, public utilities, equipment manufacturers, and start-ups. Zero dB has designed elaborate communications networks. One network, installed in Malaysia, involved submarine cabling, and they have designed several networks for optical fiber to the home.

“We live by two principles,” says Zimmermann. “They are: (1) ‘don’t take more work than you can handle well,’ and (2) ‘do it right the first time’.”

Zero dB’s work with the City of Cheney, Washington is a good example Zero’s engineering expertise. Cheney, now launching a broadband initiative for economic development, is in the vanguard of undiluted fiber access for the entire municipality. The mission is to have all public and private buildings in the community eventually wired with fiber, and to have a master plan in place for future municipal growth and community connection.

Because it is expensive to get fiber to its final destination, a complete and thorough master plan is essential for the project to be cost effective. The Cheney master plan was Zero dB’s job. In preparing the plan, Zero dB worked as engineering project manager with Cheney city planners to define the user base and the users needs and desires. Following that, they conducted a usability study and suggested technology that would best fit the defined needs at the best price. The next step was to develop the network architecture and design, and lay out a blueprint based on that design. A large scale system for the entire city was platted. Based on these decisions, the master plan was confirmed. Finally, the first phase of the actual pulling of wire began on a selected portion of the master plan.

The Cheney project will proceed in three phases. Phase one is proof of concept. All municipal buildings will be wired in the phase --- including fire, police, and emergency systems. There will also be a sample test of businesses and multiple occupancy dwellings. The system will deploy voice, data, and video from the outset.

Phase two calls for the connection of broadband from Cheney to Spokane. The Point-of-Presence in Spokane would be the USBank building.

Phase three will be complete when the entire residential and business community is wired.

Cheney’s plan is to operate an open access electronic communication architecture just like roads, sewers, etc., where the city provides the infrastructure, and private sector vendors provide the service. This gives end users a choice of vendors. Zero dB’s engineering plan will provide for the integrated system.

Zero dB has learned to be flexible and creative, especially when times are tough. When the telecom carrier business faltered in the United States, the international work kept on going at its own pace, according to Zimmerman. Zero dB has built alliances with skilled and creative engineering contractors that they use for specific assignments. “Other engineering firms like to work with us because we do such exciting projects,” says Zimmermann.

“We plan to continue what we’re doing, and grow in the process,” says Zimmermann. “We have a strong work ethic and client success is important. When we commit to something, we do it right the first time.”

For more information about Zero dB, go to: ---Billie Moreland

Billie Moreland
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