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July 01, 2009

Down Economy, Broadband Stimulus Raise Profile of Dark Fiber: Expert



By Michael Dinan
TMCnet Editor



Although President Barack Obama’s so-called “Broadband Technology Opportunities Program” has helped place a focus on the future of broadband in the United States, he must not let vested interests take over the specifics of the nation’s plan, an industry expert told TMCnet in an interview.
 
According to Hunter Newby (News - Alert), the chief executive officer of a Manhattan-based company that’s seeking to pave the way for wide broadband access, wireless backhaul and lower latency through next-gen long haul dark fiber construction, as the broadband issue is picked apart and examined, the networks that drive technology, applications and innovation will be put in place and likely enhanced.
 
Yet, according to Newby – whose company is called Allied Fiber – “the devil is in the details.”
 
“Allocating $7.2 billion effectively will not be easy,” Newby told TMC President Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) in an interview that’s printed in full below. “It can be squandered easily though without a complete understanding of all of the issues, political, technological and economic.”
 
Newby – who is speaking in two months during ITEXPO West on dark fiber and U.S. stimulus as well as “Fiber & Wireless Backhaul” – is an expert on the United States pursuit of wider broadband adoption. As he tells Tehrani during the interview below, the biggest obstacle to the United States is the nation’s sheer size, meaning carriers and mobile providers can reach an ROI for high-speed coverage much easier.
 
Their exchange follows.

RT: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?

Hunter Newby (pictured left): The economic crisis has created a wonderful opportunity for Allied Fiber. The normal growth trajectory for leased dark fiber by carriers, ISPs, enterprises, government agencies and so on – which is very strong – may very well have gone unnoticed in the mainstream if it were not for the global economic collapse and the ensuing stimulus package.
 
The federal government has done us a huge favor by specifically identifying the fact that there is a problem with the current U.S. broadband infrastructure – there is not enough of it. This is something that we have known for some time given our own personal histories, but it is great to see the government validate it. We started Allied Fiber long before the economic collapse and creation of the BTOP and now we sit in the very advantageous position of having a complete business plan, partners, experienced team, model and documented customer demand for the key missing elements – the integration of dark fiber, towers and neutral colocation.

RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?

This is the perfect time to be making this type of capital investment. We are creating critical communications infrastructure for the United States. These assets are the underpinning of the growth of our economy and the creation of new high-paying jobs. We are investing in ducts, fiber, towers and colocation all along the route to provide intermediate access to the facilities to any and all that wish to use it.

RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?

Wireless-mobile, for sure. That is not to say that the other segments of data center, transport, transit, video and even VoIP are not strong, they are. They are just not the strongest standalone. It also helps to clarify what wireless/mobile is. They are essentially a form of access. The segment encompasses subsections voice, Internet/web, video and transport both in the mobile service provider space and transport in the microwave backhaul space. The key ingredient though is mobility as the microwave backhaul providers largely sell to the mobile service providers. They are all experiencing tremendous demand. The demand requires fiber to the tower and microwave aggregation to those towers with fiber from those without fiber. Once that high-speed access is established the applications can flow.

RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi (News - Alert), appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
 
WiFi is and should continue to be an integral component of high-speed network access as and where it works optimally. It is a low-cost local area wireless access solution. This is great if there is an equivalent backhaul solution to feed the need. If there is not, then WiFi just adds to the bottleneck and may give some false hopes, or expectations as to speeds and service levels. It is no one single entity’s direct fault if the backhaul is not there yet, but it is incumbent upon those service providers to architect a solution and break the bottleneck in order to continue to grow and be viable.
 
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?

The U.S.A for sure. What is currently our biggest obstacle is our geography. We are a large country. It is actually quite unfair to rank the United States against other smaller “countries” in terms of broadband penetration and speeds. Those countries have a much smaller area to cover and therefore carriers/mobile providers can reach a ROI for high-speed coverage much easier than any carriers, or providers in the United States. Allied Fiber stands to change all of that.

By putting high-count dark fiber in place with integrated cell towers and colocation facilities between undersea cable landing stations touching the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean we will make this country a much smaller place from a network-geography perspective. Buyers will very easily be able to get on, around and out to where they need to go in a cost effective and predictable manner much like they do in parts of Asia and Western Europe. Once we have completed our build the USA’s geographic disadvantage will become its advantage over the other countries as they cannot get any bigger in land mass than they already are.

RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?

He and he staff have already helped tremendously with the creation of the BTOP. This opened up the dialogue and solicited comments from thousands of parties interested in helping shape the broadband future of the United States. As the broadband issue gets sorted out the networks that drive technology, applications and innovation will be put in place and, or enhanced.

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” so what the President can do and is already doing is to become well-versed on the subject and not let vested interests dictate the terms on the pace, architecture, economics, or ultimate control of the much needed physical-layer networks assets this country requires. Allocating $7.2 billion effectively will not be easy. It can be squandered easily though without a complete understanding of all of the issues, political, technological and economic.

RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?

Personally I use a Blackberry. I use email 95 percent of the time and voice the rest. It is much more efficient. I would like to use the iPhone (News - Alert) for managing my flight schedule as I hear there is a great app for that. The other device I would like to use a lot more is my garage door opener to take out my 1970 Corvette, but I am not home enough to do so.

RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google (News - Alert) Android platform?

The iPhone 3G is an interesting story indeed. As the slogan goes, “the S is for speed”. Where does that speed come from and where does it go to? At some point there are towers and fiber involved. The more capacity users have the more they use - this is fact. I have heard stats from sources within WiMax providers that the data rate usage is actually 14-16x higher that the old rev. This is amazing! It is like multipying the population in terms of bandwidth comsumption. It is good for the entire industry. Open-source helps drive this of course. As more apps are created more people use the devices and network as a result.

RT: I understand you are speaking during ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles. Describe your talk and tell us what companies or people should attend.

I am participating in two sessions. One is about how the BTOP will impact broadband and then therefore VoIP growth as a result. The other is about how wireless and fiber are actually complimentary and not polar opposites as many have believed, or were made to believe.

These sessions apply to all sorts of companies and their representatives including fiber/wireless carriers, VoIP carriers and VoIP/transport hardware vendors.

RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?

What we provide is essential to the operations of the businesses that need it, so it is not really seen as an expense although it does cost money. Many network operators have reached a point where they need to own their own fiber so that they can control their underlying costs and manage a more predictable business for many years to come. In addition there are others that need fiber for non-traditional carrier applications. These are mostly enterprises that generate far more in revenue from their network running over the fiber than the network costs. For them the critical issue is latency, or said another way, the speed with which they can execute transactions between servers. Add this to the needs of the mobile/wireless providers for video/IP backhaul and it is easy to see how the entire market for dark fiber has changed. These are applications that did not exist in their current form even a short 5 years ago.

For more information about dark fiber, visit the TMCnet-hosted Dark Fiber Global Online Community on TMCnet.com.
 

Learn more about Allied Fiber and Hunter Newby at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now!


Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan
 
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