As promised, over the past two weeks I have updated my metro fiber provider list. In my earlier note, I mentioned trying to get some European data. I'm still trying, but haven't managed to add anything at this time. As usual, the latest list is here, which you can get to via the Resources item in the menu bar above. Several new providers have been added to the list - new to the list of course, each has been around longer than this site has.
- BalsamWest Fibernet serving markets in western North Carolina including the Cherokee Indian reservation. I had run into the name before, but had little information until a representative sent some along.
- Lexent Metro Connect had been hidden from my view in plain site in NYC. Actually, I had seen the name before but had been unable to find much information. However, the recent PR regarding fiber to Yankee Stadium reminded me to check again.
- US Metro down in southwest Florida is headed up by Level 3 alumni Frank Mambuca. I don't think I would have found them for a while if he didn't send me a note.
- Point to Point, Inc. of California is an interesting case. They don't operate metro fiber rings and focus on a whole metro area, just metro fiber routes from one building to another and then along that route where convenient. This model gives them a very high number of on-net buildings relative to their route miles. Do they belong on this list? Well, why not - it's meant to be inclusive, we just need to keep in mind that their metrics differ from others because of a very different business model.
Looking at the relative expansions in footprint amongst the larger providers who update their numbers regularly, in terms of raw lit building additions TW Telecom (NASDAQ:TWTC, news, filings) continues to lead the way, adding some 300 during the quarter. Zayo continued its pace by adding a couple hundred more buildings, EasyTEL also racked up a healthy growth rate, and Cogent maintained its steady pace of 25-30 buildings per quarter. Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT, news, filings) has been less active for a few quarters now, apparently saving its capex during the economic crisis. Some other bumps in the numbers came more from obtaining more recent date: Lightower, Abovenet, and the Long Island Fiber Exchange fall into this group.
Most of the wholesale-focused providers don't update their data that often. That is understandable given that they don't add that many buildings on a regular basis. However, I'm trying to work out for myself what really makes the difference between the wholesale and enterprise metro fiber providers. Is it the type of asset itself? Or simply a choice by the organization? Put another way, is it nature or nurture that determines how metro fiber assets are used?
I think it is a relevant question, because some mostly wholesale metro fiber assets have been snapped up by companies that either do or intend to focus on the enterprise: TW Telecom's purchase of Xspedius comes to mind, as do Level 3's purchase of Progress Telecom and several of Zayo's purchases. How easily can (or did) they retool such assets toward a different business model? Any thoughts?
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