CenturyLink sales boosted by enterprises' shift to dark fiber to secure sensitive traffic

CenturyLink sign on building (free to use)
Security is a big driver behind the increase in enterprise customers adopting dark fiber. (CenturyLink)

CenturyLink and its predecessor companies like Level 3 may have traditionally sold dark fiber on a wholesale basis to other carriers and web scale companies, but the service provider says more enterprises are requesting the service as a way to secure sensitive data.  

Ed Morche, president of strategic enterprise and federal government business at CenturyLink, told FierceTelecom that enterprises are increasingly citing interest for dark fiber solutions.

Ed Morche

“If you get to a point where you go from 2.5 Gbps to 10G, and to 100G, the question becomes, do you go to 400G or do you go to fiber?” Morche said. “Also, how do I protect my intellectual property or connect my facilities in a secure manner? Nothing is more secure than fiber.”

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By completing its acquisition of Level 3, CenturyLink immediately expanded its available fiber assets. The service provider gained an additional 200,000 route miles of fiber, including 64,000 route miles in 350 metropolitan areas and 33,000 subsea route miles connecting multiple continents.

Still, Morche admits that the interest from enterprises’ interest in dark fiber is a relatively new phenomenon. 

“Dark fiber is a big part of our discussion with our enterprise customers,” Morche said. “That discussion with our enterprise customers 5-10 years around fiber ago was not happening. It was with our web scale customers and our competition and fiber has come core to our discussion with enterprises security and growth.”

Multisolution provider focus

CenturyLink is an interesting place to offer dark fiber to business customers. The service provider can provide the fiber facilities, install the fiber and manage connections for the customer. The service also ties in with its growing set of security solutions for business customers.

“There is no better way to protect your traffic because there’s nothing shared about dark fiber,” Morche said. “It’s fully dedicated and its fully scalable with the right electronics. If a business is connecting its data centers, most of the time they will ask us to manage that for them and it’s a high profit for us.”

Unlike regional fiber providers, CenturyLink says its broad portfolio of fiber and other lit services sets it apart from other regional fiber providers that mainly focus on one or two main products.

“Some of the regional guys are one- or two-trick ponies,” Morche said. “For us, the answer can be anything from Layer-0 all the way up to Layer-7.”

Morche added that when it comes to an enterprise’s choice of using dark fiber or another lit service like Ethernet, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

“It’s up to the customer and it’s our job to make sure we understand what the right fit is for them,” Morche said. “The worst thing you can do is force fit something that’s good for you but not for them.”

Government, education market interest ripens

CenturyLink is also seeing ongoing interest from its government and education customers, and it's well positioned to serve these segments.

On the public sector side, the service provider won seats on two key government contracts last year: Enterprise Infrastructure Services (EIS) and the Department of Defense’s Global Network Services (GNS) contracts. 

The service provider can also take advantage of changes in how local school districts can purchase dark fiber solutions stemming from the FCC’s changes to the E-Rate program to procure telecom services.

“Dark fiber has always been big inside the federal business and inside of the research and education segment,” Morche said. “We’re now pushing into more smaller enterprises, whether that’s smaller on the government side or smaller on the enterprise side.”

Dark and lit fiber sales decisions and build out requests for these and other segments will be enabled by CenturyLink’s approach to empower local general managers (GMs) across the diversity of local markets it serves. These GMs have a more deeper understanding of what a customer’s needs are.

“If you have enough people with that local responsibility together with the operations team and you’re getting close to exhaust and you have to construct more fiber, it can’t be managed from a central location,” Morche said. “That’s not a headquarters function, but rather a local function.”