GigaOm has a nice article today on the troubles faced by the bandwidth startup Darkstrand in these ugly credit markets. Darkstrand has always been an enigma to me. The company's plan has been to use fiber from the National LambdaRail project to build a backbone, and to market the service to corporations that consume lots of bandwidth. Straightforward, yes? Why do I find it puzzling? Well, don't get me wrong, I love networks and one more just makes life more interesting.
It's just that I've heard this somewhere before. We had lots of intercity fiber networks with little physical difference back in the bubble days. The only ones that survive today in any meaningful form are the ones with appreciable metro assets to give them decent margins, and Darkstrand doesn't have any. And the customers they are targeting are the same ones almost everyone else does. The raw Tier-1 intercity bandwidth market is just a really hard place to play, differentiation tends to look great on powerpoint slides but nowhere else. So I'm skeptical, but I'm open to being proved an idiot, it has happened before and will happen again.
For now though, it has to be really tough just to get started, to have a credit crunch just when you need to lay out capital to build and grow a network from scratch is just plain painful. The company is trying to start service at the end of January, and I wish them luck!
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