SummitIG uses partners to bolster dark fiber strategy

SummitIG may have an ambitious underground dark fiber build out strategy in Virginia, but it's got plenty of help.

Since it was founded in 2012, the service provider has constructed a 450-mile network that includes densely populated infrastructure routes stretching from Data Center Alley in Loudoun County to Reston and greater Vienna and Tysons Corner commercial districts to developing data center areas of Prince William County. 

Over the past three years it has increased its long-haul and metro network reach, including the installation of 280 miles of underground metro dark fiber and 170 miles of long haul fiber. All of these builds have resulted in the company being able to increase its on-net building penetration -- particularly into 45 data centers and business sites -- by 150 percent.

Bill Cook, CEO and co-founder of SummitIG, told FierceInstaller in a recent interview that his company depends upon a large team of partners to carry out its dark fiber strategy. 

"While SummitIG only operates in Virginia, I have over 30 construction vendors under contract," Cook said. "I use a blend of national, regional and local vendors depending on the scope of the project and availability of resources."

Because it's a young company, the service provider purchases turnkey contracts where the construction company provides a soup-to-nuts package of labor and materials. However, it complements that process with subcontractor engineering firms and buying its own fiber.

"Most of our contracts are turn-key where the contractor provides a lump sum for the materials and the labor," said Cook. "Separately, we sub the engineering and we direct purchase the cable from the manufacturer. Unless you have significant volume and a procurement group, turn-key seems to be the best option."

Cook added that "you still must inspect the projects to ensure specifications are met."

Although SummitIG mainly operates in Virginia, the service provider is offering a fresh perspective on a market that is in need of new fiber-centric players.

Despite the presence of a number of incumbent telcos and competitive providers, many local operators have not upgraded their facilities in a long time.   

"The Northern Virginia market has a rich history of having a lot of connectivity demand and a lot of previous providers," Cook said. "Those providers over time have consolidated and it's a down to a handful of people that control those networks. And they have been adequately maintained, but there hasn't been capital put into those networks to make the product is available."

In addition to a number of fiber providers, the growth of the Northern Virginia market with new businesses and residential neighborhoods means there's a lot more obstacles it has to overcome such as navigating around private property as well as gas and electric utility routes.

"Because the infrastructure is there, there's a lot of sensitivity around existing infrastructure and working around all the other utilities that it takes to support the broader economy that is Northern Virginia," Cook said. "There's a lot of housing that's been built, a lot of retail that's popped up and a lot of data centers and with other utilities. It has become more and more difficult to be able to occupy these public corridors."

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