Wholesale provider leaders to watch in 2012

As we ramp up into this spring's COMPTEL PLUS--a trade show that will focus on selling wholesale services to competitive providers and increasingly wireless carriers--it's time for FierceTelecom to pay tribute to the leaders of this space with our Wholesale Provider Leaders to Watch in 2012 feature.

Competition in the wholesale service market continues to be ripe. The market segment continues to reveal new opportunities to deliver IP-based services for both incumbent and various emerging competitive providers that offer services in both large NFL and smaller cities.  

One of the key overall themes that has emerged over past two years in the wholesale service space is the rapid consolidation of service providers serving this market, looking to increase their fiber footprints to serve other carriers, including wireless operators with fiber and Ethernet wireless backhaul services. This consolidation trend has come from two ends--incumbent carriers and competitive players.

In considering our list, it's hard to not include Patrick Tata at Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN). Having previously beefed up its fiber holdings with its acquisition of KDL, its acquisition of PAETEC helped the once mainly rural telephone provider instantly expand its fiber network footprint again with over 100,000 nationwide fiber route miles.

No less compelling are Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL).

At Verizon, CEO and Chairman Lowell McAdam realigned the wholesale division, which is still led by Mike Millegan, under one common organization that's joined with the business and government services divisions. Just as important was its acquisition of cloud and data center provider Terremark, which enabled the Wholesale Group to begin offering white labeled cloud services to other service provider customers such as Cornerstone Telephone.

Overseen by 34-plus year telecom industry veteran Bill Cheek, CenturyLink's big wholesale drive continues to be centered on wireless backhaul. In Q4 2011, the service provider reported it built out fiber to 1,250 cell towers, ending the year with almost 10,200 Fiber to the Tower (FTTT) builds. 

Outside of the large four service providers, another ILEC worth noting here is FairPoint (Nasdaq: FRP). Having emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2010, the service provider has focused building out its core network and 14,000 route miles of fiber to serve business customers in New England and, of course, wireless operators. As of the end of Q4 2011, FairPoint had connected over 800 out of 1,600 cell towers in its New England territory with fiber.

Competitive carriers, of course, are being just as aggressive, particularly Zayo and EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK).

Led by former Level 3 co-founder Dan Caruso, Zayo continues to build out its fiber network presence in its key markets organically and through 18 acquisitions made since the company was founded in 2007. This year, Zayo made its biggest move yet by proposing a deal to acquire fellow fiber-centric service provider AboveNet (NYSE: ABVT).

Leveraging the assets it purchased, including Deltacom Interstate FiberNet, New Edge Networks' wholesale unit and One Communications' carrier business, EarthLink formally made its foray into the wholesale market last May with the launch of its Carrier Division.  

Like our previous competitive executives to watch in 2011 feature, we're also ranking each executive by their ability to do a few things: create a profitable business, set trends and open new markets.

Take a look and let us know what you think by entering your comments in the comment section. --Sean