For much of this year, a new company called Allied Fiber has been making waves in the bandwidth sector, promising to do what many have said couldn't or shouldn't be done: build new longhaul dark fiber routes in the USA. Today Allied Fiber has gone public with its plans, with the first phase already under construction between New York, Chicago and Washington DC (Ashburn). Here are a few quick highlights and a route map of the NY-Chicago leg:
- Route: 1300 miles, primarily along railroad rights of way, including Norfolk-Southern
- Cost: $140M for phase 1.
- Conduits: Multiple
- Fiber Count: 432 longhaul, plus 216 short-haul for frequent on-ramps
- Fiber: a composite of SMF and NZDSF fibers
- Colocation: huts and larger facilities every 60 miles
- Towers: 300 of them on-net along the way
The business model is very simple and yet to some, outrageous: sell longhaul dark fiber to wholesale customers and the colo space to operate it with. It's been 10 years since I've seen anyone suggest that wholesale longhaul dark fiber was a great idea. What has changed? Obviously, Allied Fiber is banking on a sustained surge in raw bandwidth demand. But they also have had a bit of luck in terms of timing.
This new build has spawned various rumors in the low latency crowd about a new blazingly fast NY-Chicago route. I had a brief chat with CEO Hunter Newby a few weeks ago. While he confirmed that the route will be shorter than other modern routes between the two cities, he reminded me that Allied Fiber itself won't play in the low latency market. They intend to sell dark fiber, and the actual latency on the route depends on what its customers do with that fiber in terms of equipment, etc. That said, the demand from customers interested in low latency has surely been helpful in the early stages of funding this buildout.
And that brings me to the number 432, which is more than four times as many fiber strands as the entire original longhaul builds of either Level 3 or Qwest. Sheesh, that's a lot of fiber. At 80x100G, it would carry a theoretical maximum capacity of over 3.4 Petabits per second, which means this network is built for the long term. Even Level 3 and Qwest have barely touched their fiber reserves thus far.
Where to after the heavily trafficked between NY/Chi/DC? The plan overall is for some 11,548 route miles and 6 rings going coast to coast, but first things first. Phase 2 is from Ashburn down to Atlanta and then to Miami. But it will apparently be on a less traveled road, following the Appalachians down through Tennessee and not the Carolinas.
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