Industry Spotlight: Greenlight’s Kevin Gorman on the MDU, SMB Opportunity

June 3rd, 2024 by · Leave a Comment

Fiber-to-the-home buildouts are being launched in more communities and neighborhoods around the country every day.  Greenlight Networks is one of the relatively young upstarts taking on the status quo.  Based out of Rochester, they have been adding markets throughout New York state, and has recently expanded its focus to take on more of the SMB market as well as multiple dwelling units, or MDUs.  With us to talk about Greenlight’s approach is the company’s Commercial Development Director, Kevin Gorman.

TR: What are the origins of Greenlight Networks?

KG: Greenlight started in 2011 with founder and CEO Mark Murphy, with a vision to bring business class internet services to the home internet market. Greenlight’s first customer was an MDU in Rochester, New York. The company has grown exponentially over the last 13 years as new private equity owners have come in. For many years, Greenlight Networks was well known as a Rochester and Monroe County internet provider before the company announced its entry into Buffalo in 2022. Then there was a tuck-in acquisition of Plexicomm down in Binghamton three years ago. We recently expanded into the capitol region around Albany and into the Hudson Valley. Soon we hope to make our first foray out of New York State. 

TR: What does your customer mix look like today and how is it evolving?

KG: Until recently we have always stuck to our knitting: fast fiber broadband service primarily to residential customers. Residential includes fiber-to-the home neighborhoods, as well as multi-tenant environments, or MDU.  but while the company started in the MDU space, where it hit the growth accelerator was focusing on building into new districts and neighborhoods within Rochester, Buffalo, Binghamton and Albany.  We recently announced that we are expanding our focus into the small business segment, which is my own background. We have developed an offering of 500m to 8G symmetrical speeds for small businesses across all our markets, with business-focused customer concierge representatives, business-focused field technicians, and business-focused pricing.

TR: What hump did you have to get over to offer an SMB product?

KG: First would be the support model itself. We weren’t offering a 24/7 support, we just had during-normal-business-hours types of support within a residential environment. We now have 24×7 support with dedicated routing for SMB customers Second is that small businesses have specific install needs that we needed to be ready for, and we now have processes and resources dedicated to that.

TR: What opportunities do you see with MDUs?  Why aren’t you there already?

KG: As we have expanded to new markets and new neighborhoods, the MDU opportunity has also expanded. That’s where the growth was coming from, so that was where we focused. In fact, we’ve decided that, especially for our newer markets, if you really want to establish a good beachhead, it’s best to get going and get growing by targeting MDUs.

My role was created to not only get the small business segment the attention it deserves, but also to reinvigorate what we’re doing on that multi-tenant environment side of the house.  There’s tremendous opportunity there. Now we are going after developers, property managers, and even residents to have those conversations about including high-speed fiber as an important ancillary service. In fact, high speed internet is often cited as a top-three amenity tenants want, along with air conditioning and washers and dryers.

TR: What types of MDUs are we talking about?  The tall urban building, or the suburban townhome community?

KG: It’s a combination of both. Anything with more than 12 units is especially a focus for us. In the suburban situation, if we have assets nearby and there is possibly a joint trench going in and we know that there’s going to be development of more modern multi-tenant structures, we’re ready and eager to participate in and support that project. In Rochester and Buffalo there is large amount of rehab work that’s going on with old industrial stock being converted into mixed-use developments.  That is really interesting to us, because in the past although we would have been interested in the residential part we didn’t really have the competitive products to address the business side. Now we have the whole package for that property.  They can be complicated, but we’re seeing them all over New York State, and we like to be part of those projects.  Most of our MDUs are mid-rise buildings featuring a few dozen apartments, as well as HOAs.  We do have several townhome communities on board, and the bulk option is attractive in a greenfield situation.   Otherwise, we would market individually to each homeowner like we would into any other neighborhood.

TR: What has changed in the FTTx space over the last few years that has led to this boom of buildout activity?

KG: I think the big thing that changed is the need of the consumer. For example, on my own internet connection at my house I may have like 17 devices tapping into my internet connection. When Spectrum upgraded me to 300Mbps it was like winning the lottery at the time, and it was not that long ago. Now it’s just “acceptable”.  The insatiable demand for bandwidth follows Nielsen’s law: bandwidth consumption increases about 50% every year.  And as computing processing power accelerates, bandwidth needs to keep up. People are craving more bandwidth without paying a premium for it. Our basic entry-level service is 500Mbps symmetrical, and you can get as much as 8Gbps symmetrical for residential.  Yes, 8 gig service; in the home!

TR: What new capabilities have you added to your portfolio as you expand your reach?

KG: One big change has been the addition of managed Wi-Fi. In the past we were pretty much a straight, fast fiber wired connection to the internet and folks were on their own to address their Wi-Fi needs. But some folks on older routers probably can’t accommodate more than 1Gbps.  So we announced last fall that for a nominal monthly fee, we will provide a fully managed and upscalable Nokia Wi-Fi router.  We install it professionally, and if it breaks, we replace it.

TR: What future capabilities might you look to add?

KG: We want to do more with Wi-Fi in public spaces. There’s a lot of community spaces, especially in newer buildings and in a lot of these rehabs, where we can offer Wi-Fi on a one-off basis.  Having a better Wi-Fi connection where people gather together could be important not only for an MDU’s community room or banquet room or library, but for small businesses like a tavern. Adding more access points and more powerful Wi-Fi for community spaces like these is something we’re working on.

TR: What kind of markets is Greenlight looking to expand into in the future?

KG: We focus on areas where the communities have limited choices in broadband.  There are a lot of those markets. Buffalo is a good example of this, and we’re in pockets of that city because there’s tremendous density and it has telephone poles from which you can get people set up in a hurry. It’s more of the tier 2/3 community — villages, towns with a decent population and houses densely put together with maybe one or two providers where the choices for customers are more limited.

TR: Greenlight isn’t the only provider building out FTTx in the Hudson Valley, are you seeing direct competition from those providers as well as cable and ILEC? 

KG: Absolutely we do run into them, and into other technologies too.  T-Mobile and Verizon are trying to offer wireless home internet access.  And these companies that have been there a long time whether as the phone company or a cable company are still innovating, changing their offers, and trying to hang on to what they had. Fiber internet is simply a superior technology – with unmatched upload and download speeds that far surpass wireless home internet speeds and capabilities. Fiber Internet is future-proof. right now there’s still so much lack of competition in the country that the opportunity and investment will remain strong for several years. The demand is there, especially for new players like Greenlight Networks.

TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!

If you haven't already, please take our Reader Survey! Just 3 questions to help us better understand who is reading Telecom Ramblings so we can serve you better!

Categories: FTTH · Industry Spotlight

Discuss this Post

Leave a Comment

You may Log In to post a comment, or fill in the form to post anonymously.

  • Ramblings’ Jobs

    Post a Job - Just $99/30days
  • Event Calendar