with Robert Roeder, EVP & Chief Development Officer at RCN Business
RCN Business is finding that its stance as a fiber-centric provider is resonating well with a host of retail businesses and wholesale customers, particularly wireless operators. After ABRY Partners purchased the entire RCN Corp. in 2010, it split off the cable division and the business division, then known as Sidera, into two separate units. Although Sidera later was purchased by Lightower, the cable operator RCN was left intact with a 6,500 mile fiber network that serves its existing residential cable business and a mix of SMBs and larger businesses in six major metro areas. Robert Roeder, EVP and chief development officer for RCN Business, is helping to write the company's next chapter. Sean Buckley, senior editor of FierceTelecom, caught up with Roeder recently to talk about the ongoing evolution of RCN Business and the success it is seeing with both small and large businesses and wireless operators.
FierceTelecom: RCN Business has gone through various iterations over the years. Can you talk about the current company structure and its market focus?
Rob Roeder: Three years ago ABRY made a decision to separate Sidera into a separate company and the cable operations, which were running on the fiber network, retained the vast amount of fiber as part of that. We began a new venture of getting back into business services as a cable operator as opposed to more like a telco-type operator that Sidera operates under. Since that time we have gone through a rapid growth in the business services market simply because of the number of products and the amount of fiber that we have available in the market areas, which leads to the products we have put out over the past few years. It's the old RCN network. It's about 6,500 miles of fiber. We have Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, New York, Allentown, Pa., and other parts of Philadelphia. Because of the residential piece, we still operate a residential service and have a business services group that operates in tandem with the residential.
FierceTelecom: RCN Business recently gained MEF CE 2.0 certification. How important is that as you pursue larger business opportunities?
Roeder: Without a doubt the reason why went through the process of getting the certification is that it not only differentiates us, it's sort of the good housekeeping seal for Ethernet. Companies were starting to ask whether or not if we had the certification probably in the mid part of last year, so we went through the process of getting the certification done simply because we wanted to walk in the door with some assurances that our customers are getting quality service.
FierceTelecom: Business services are a diverse sector, but what's the typical size customer RCN Business is targeting? SMBs? Enterprises?
Roeder: We operate in two different arenas simultaneously and we have customers that move from the lower tier to the higher tier. We operate 35,000 businesses that range from SMB-type services all way up to full Ethernet connectivity and we do dark fiber. We have everything from Mom and Pop pizza places all the way up to Fortune 500 companies.
FierceTelecom: Can you talk about the Ethernet service mix. What services are your hot sellers?
Roeder: A little bit of everything. We still do a lot of direct Internet access to DIAs. Based on the certification, we're seeing a lot of Ethernet private line coming up. Now that we have the certification, we have evolved it one step further, but that's an area where we see a lot of growth potential in.
FierceTelecom: You mentioned dark fiber. Where are you seeing the greatest demand for that product? Retail and wholesale opportunities like wireless operators?
Roeder: We do both. We also have a rapidly expanding small cell unit, and we're doing business with all the carriers based on that. The small cell unit uses our fiber interconnectivity we have in these metro markets. We have the ability because of the large amount of fiber to deliver dark fiber for customers. It's partly wireless carriers and partly people looking for fiber point to point, especially with the Fortune 500 companies, and somewhat in the hospitals and banking realms too.
FierceTelecom: Are you seeing momentum for that segment growing or is it too early to tell?
Roeder: Very much so. Every one of our markets has small cell being installed through our agreement with carriers. It's a business that through the next 36-48 months, it's going to be very fast paced because every one of the carriers is looking for just the right amount of connectivity and having the fiber helps.
FierceTelecom: Having deployed a large amount of fiber in the areas you serve, are you continually bringing fiber to new buildings to increase your on-net building footprint?
Roeder: Our primary focus has been on-net and we do a last mile for other carriers. We have a division that works with other operators to provide last mile connections when they need it.
FierceTelecom: What are the new areas of expansion you have planned for this year?
Roeder: RCN was a very traditional telephone company. We have five softswitches that are in the third year of operation. We offer a full suite of hosted voice. We offer SIP trunking so just about anything that's in the realm of digital voice we're able to offer it--that's been extremely fast growing for us. A lot of companies are coming to us now with a desire to get rid of the old switch and bring in the hosted solution. We feel real comfortable that that's going to be an expanding business through the next several years.
The other big thing we're doing is the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). We were happy to be part of the ARIN 33 going on in Chicago. They asked us to see what we could do to make sure that their event went off with high capacity and we're happy to be part of it. It was a good way to let people know we're out there and can deliver these types of services, but also be able to help ARIN out.
FierceTelecom: Despite having a lot of fiber in the ground, RCN continues to expand its fiber reach. Are your expansions success-based?
Roeder: We continue to expand into buildings. We are now the only redundant fiber connection into the Empire State Building. We're just starting to put our first customers on and we have a fully redundant route that never existed to tenants of the Empire State Building. Not only is it a high-profile business, it has a lot of businesses in there that are looking for a redundant path.