Next: Independent Regional Fiber Providers

August 25th, 2008 by · 2 Comments

While researching metro fiber providers, I have come to realize that it may be best to classify the different fiber assets in three categories that have distinct characteristics:

  • Longhaul fiber, which connects the largest cities in the country and forms the backbone of the internet as we know it.
  • Metro fiber, which connects individual buildings to the longhaul fiber, whether SMEs or carrier hotels.  It generally covers a metro area and uses different equipment for transmission than longhaul fiber.
  • Regional fiber, which has some traits from each of the above.  Physically it is like longhaul fiber in that it covers substantial distances to connect cities and uses the same kinds of equipment, but those cities are generally off of the backbone routes.  Functionally it acts like metro fiber that it frequently serves as an on/off ramp to those backbone routes.

Longhaul fiber has been in the spotlight for a decade – sometimes good and sometimes bad, and in the last 4-5 years metro fiber has gotten its share of attention.  But most people, e.g. the media, are fairly dismissive of regional fiber, and I must admit to have fallen prey to that perception.  When someone like Zayo or Level 3 acquires regional fiber, it is often portrayed as something of an afterthought.

But in trying to understand metro fiber, I have come across dozens of companies whose regional fiber is both important and impossible to analyze by metrics we might look at longhaul and metro fiber.  A few networks have a mix of all three, but there are a few dozen providers which specialize in just regional fiber, and I’ll bet that only the most dedicated telecom folks amongst my readers have heard of most of them.  They are almost always privately held, and the news media rarely pays them any attention at all.

So anyhow, over the next few weeks I will be assembling a list of regional fiber providers, and will look for metrics that can help understand them and the assets they operate.  I expect details will be scarce, but that’s never stopped me before…  At the very least, I may get some people to tell me how wrong I am, and I find that’s generally a pretty useful excercise.

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Categories: Internet Backbones · Metro fiber

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2 Comments So Far

  • Frank A. Coluccio says:

    As you add to your tally of fiber properties, you may want to also include regional educational & research nets (RENs) and Internet2. National Lambda Rail, whose roles are in a constant state of flux, in particular, always holds out some interesting possibilities. You may wish to explore what Darkstrand is doing these days vis a vis its ties to NLR, and how corporate network tenants might someday play into their plans.

    See, for example, this June 05, 2008 press release from DS:

    “Premier U.S. Research Network Opens Door to Corporate America – Darkstrand Buys Capacity on Performance-Driven National LambdaRail” at:

    Likewise, further inclusions may take into account all of the many statewide, county and PUD-level I-Nets that have been built over the past 20 years, where even some of those now support private-public operations, especially w.r.t. economic development and enterprise zone building. Many of these networks are larger than some of those you’ve already shown on the list.

    I found your coverage of Black Rock Cable particularly interesting for its resemblance to many “infrastructure” builds in Scandinavia and NL (to name just two areas where these exist), where fiber is considered a part of the commons, i.e., on a par with bricks and mortar, literally, or Layer Zero conduit and overhead rights of way, for example, if not also compared with bridges and vehicular freeways as well.

    I’m not suggesting that the business goals of Black Rock Cable and municipal fiber infrastructure builders in Stockholm are similar, but instead that their distances shown from lit buildings to on-net locations, as well as their high-densities and concentrations are similar.

    While we’re here, where do you pigeon-hole UTOPIA-like networks and newer multiple-city builds taking place in VT and across the southeast are being constructed, since they are at least partially supported by municipalities and many of those currently are, or will be, competing with other players on your list.

    Finally, a question: When is a city- or county- or PUD- scale FTTX network (where X covers all classes of end points in a given serving area) NOT considered a candidate for your list?


  • Rob Powell says:

    Thanks for the comment, Frank. To quickly answer part of your question(s), I’d say that any FTTX network would be a fourth category, and one that I have yet to get into. The distinguishing feature would be that such networks target mainly the consumer. For now, my FTTX exposure remains minmal, I simply haven’t done the reading I need to to comment on the space. But I will do so sooner or later!

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