AT&T, CenturyLink fiber builds help drive up U.S. business fiber penetration to 46.2%

AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink's (NYSE: CTL) ongoing fiber builds to power business customers are key contributors to narrowing what Vertical Systems Group calls the "fiber gap."

The so-called fiber gap refers to the remaining "unlit" commercial buildings without fiber facilities that readily connect to business network services.

According to the research firm, the U.S. Fiber Gap continued to narrow in 2015 as business fiber penetration in commercial buildings grew to 46.2 percent.

This is up from 42.5 percent in 2015 and  39.3 percent in 2014 of U.S. buildings in 2013.

"Fiber penetration increased in 2015 as network operators targeted greenfield metro areas and mid-size multi-tenant buildings for new installations," said Rosemary Cochran, principal at Vertical Systems Group, in a release. "Fiber access to network services is additionally being pre-built into nearly every new commercial building across the U.S."

Having available fiber in a building means that a service provider can deliver a mix of not only Ethernet services, but also other services such as higher speed hybrid VPNs, cloud and Internet connectivity, mobile traffic aggregation and emerging SDN-enabled Dynamic Network Connectivity Services (DNCS).

It's hard not to notice how these two telcos have been progressing with expanding their fiber penetration into buildings.

Earlier this year, AT&T announced that it reached its milestone of equipping 1 million business locations with fiber via the fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) program that is part of its Project VIP initiative. This expansion has enabled it to bring a mix of symmetrical and asymmetrical speeds ranging from 25 Mbps to 300 Mbps, with plans to reach 1 Gbps.

However, the telco is not resting on its laurels.

Matt Beattie, executive director of product marketing for fiber to the building at AT&T told FierceTelecom in an earlier interview that the telco plans to continue expanding fiber to more buildings where it gets customer requests.

"We'll respond to fiber demand in an unlit building as we come across a specific customer need," Beattie said.

In addition to expanding into more buildings, the next priorities for FTTB growth will be driven by its on-demand Ethernet service and GPON-based products.

CenturyLink, through its GPON service program the service provider offers 1 Gbps to over 490,000 small and midsize business locations in a total of 17 states.

But it's not just the telcos that are driving more fiber into buildings.

A growing base of competitive carriers are also making progress in either bringing fiber closer to building sites in a near-net fashion and bringing fiber into more buildings.

XO Communications, which is selling its fiber network to Verizon, has also been aggressive in bringing fiber to more buildings. In 2015, the service provider completed fiber construction projects into nearly 550 enterprise buildings across 25 regional markets.

Upon announcing its intent to acquire XO's fiber network, FCC filings revealed that XO had 4,000 on-net buildings in 40 major markets and 1.2 million fiber miles.

Meanwhile, WOW! Business recently completed the initial phase of installing and lighting a high count fiber cable connecting five of 38 planned downtown buildings. 

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
VSG: Fiber penetration gap in U.S. businesses narrowed to under 60%
U.S. fiber penetration reaches 39.3 percent of buildings, says VSG
VSG: Level 3's tw telecom acquisition helps it surpass Verizon in Ethernet race

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