Q&A: Clint Heiden, President of Intellifiber Part II

FierceTelecom: Okay, so if wholesale is your predominant business, what are the hot areas in that segment?
Heiden:
Because we never unified around the brand Intellifiber and taking fiber assets to market, one impact we had on the market is simply serving our customers better. We probably have an unusual growth rate just in the carrier world for raw capacity and transport business that someone with a 10-year history as being out as a branded name would have less growth to show on those basic services. If you got into the real growth areas, it would be the four or five wireless providers that you would know as household names that are in our region. One of the things the wireless carriers find good about our network is it is so dense within the region, which allows them to get closer to the towers. That model is really all about getting that tower onto the fiber at the shortest distance and at the lowest cost.

IntellifiberThen, there are the wireless backhaul providers. About a year and half ago, we had no revenue with one wireless backhaul carrier customer and now they are in the top 10. Some of these network providers are taking on 500 towers in areas such as Atlanta, Ga. or Florida. We're partnering with a wireless backhaul provider that's physically going to the towers at some capacity. With one customer, we're going in and doing Richmond, Norfolk and Petersburg, Va. and three other cities doing very large custom build outs. Then, we create seven to eight fiber hubs for them and they take that and reach two to 400 towers within the market. That's been a really nice combination partnership to reach the market.

When people ask us if we play in the fiber to the tower market, my answer is we'll pursue it when the payback makes sense. One, is we find that most companies don't want to give you groups of towers, but rather have you take 85 percent of towers in a market so it does not become economical for us to do it. The other is we'll partner with folks like this wireless backhaul provider to reach the towers.

FierceTelecom: Along with providing fiber what else do wireless carriers and wireless backhaul providers want in terms of services?
Heiden:
Our network is capable of SONET and Ethernet and transporting anything that our customers are asking for, but our wireless customers have begun asking for Ethernet handoffs. Other things they are asking for are diversity and unique paths. To play with these guys--whether it's direct with the wireless providers or with a wireless backhauler--you have to have to have an appetite for a fairly complex solution and a sales cycle that's going to take three to six months to architect the right infrastructure that's going to make sense for them.

The deals where we are doing an entire build out for one of these customers, we worked with them for three months on how it is designed; how many towers; where do we build the fiber hub within our network to give them the right reach. It's a very solution oriented sale. If you don't have the sales force to react to a customer that's that demanding, it's a market you'll find yourself not doing too well in.

FierceTelecom: Let's switch to the vertical market segments. One area that I am seeing carriers respond to is the need for low latency services from financial institutions. Intellifber just introduced low latency connectivity from New York City to Chicago. What drove that development?
Heiden:
 I agree that there's been a land rush for low latency network services, but before we got into it that land rush existed. First, we did not want to get involved prior to understanding our network and what our customers wanted from us. We had six to nine months of last year where we came out and were creating Intellifiber and focusing on its customers before I wanted to divert our attention (to something) that would take a lot of our attention. Second, because of the land rush and my inability to get a lot of knowledge around what are the solid competitive advantages with people with those that are making that land grab, we did not want to just jump in and play on the latency scenario.

We started talking to our customers and partners to build out this network and said, ‘let's pretend latency is not a land grab and in a year latency is a commodity, what are the things that are still going to matter to you?'  We tried to design our offering on unique routes. Between Chicago and New York, the idea of a unique route that's diverse from other providers, never loses value. In designing this route, there was a couple points--Philadelphia and Cleveland specifically--where we could have taken an easier path. Instead, we avoided some high congestion areas and kept our path 100 percent unique from the others including Level 3, AT&T, and Verizon. It cost us extra money and extra time, but we knew that was something the customer wanted.

Q&A: Clint Heiden, President of Intellifiber Part II
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