CenturyLink scales its 1 Gig service to 490,000 SMBs in 17 states

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) has reached a new milestone with its symmetrical 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) service, announcing it has extended the service to 115,000 additional business locations and into five new states.

With this expansion complete, the service provider now offers GPON to nearly 490,000 small and midsize business locations in a total of 17 states.

The service provider is bringing its 1 Gbps service to SMB customers in parts of Iowa, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin while expanding its availability in nine of the 12 states where CenturyLink initially deployed service to business locations in 16 cities last August.

These nine states include: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. CenturyLink also provides 1 Gbps speeds in parts of Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

News of this expansion should not be of a great surprise. During the first quarter, the service provider said it planned to expand its business GPON footprint to more than 100,000 businesses by the end of the year.

Shirish Lal, chief marketing officer for CenturyLink, said in an interview with FierceTelecom that while it continues to make progress rolling out 1 Gbps service to residential customers, what's different is that the service is part of a broader solution set for SMBs that have limited IT resources.

"What's different about the way we approach the SMB market is this really is for us in many ways about packaging a set of capabilities that we built around our enterprise business," Lal said. "The way we have set up our GPON service is we offer an option that's traditional Internet access and we also offer an option that's connected to our MPLS backbone with true quality of service capabilities."

As it has done with other products it offers to SMBs and enterprises, CenturyLink is also extending services like its firewall capability that it initially built for the Department of Defense under the General Services Administration's (GSA) Networx contract. The service provider then worked with its vendor to virtualize the managed firewall capability in 150 edge points of presence (PoPs) and now offers it to its SMB customers.  

Its GPON business offerings will also be tied into CenturyLink's broader implementation of network functions virtualization (NFV) and managed software as a service (SaaS) cloud services.

"Increasingly, when you look at NFV and SaaS, we see more and more capabilities coming over this pipe in having symmetric gigabit and we see fiber itself and the direction of PON really fitting well with our focus of NFV, cloud, and SaaS being something to simplify the SMB environment," Lal said. "Gigabit is part of that bigger story, and bringing the full breadth of CenturyLink capabilities all the way from the enterprise part of the business to the SMB market."

But the target for the GPON business product is not the tall and shiny buildings where its large enterprise customers reside. A typical client could include a business site with one or two tenants and even single site businesses.

"This is very different from a let''s say a Level 3 strategy and the majority of our builds will be for one or two tenants and is not a tall and shiny focus," Lal said. "We have very dense fiber in many of our markets, which we have built out into the business areas and we're targeting anything near net to those."  

Lal added that while they see a lot of SMBs that have large bandwidth needs, the focus is on helping the local doctor's office or architecture firm focus on their core business activities.   

"We just see the world exploding around us in terms of the capabilities that you can put into the cloud or off site and the manageability of that," Lal said. "When we interview our SMB customers, they don't want to be worrying about all the technology so we view the infrastructure putting into place as being essential, but we also manage the LAN, manage the VoIP on site and we have disaster recovery service, and we resell Microsoft 360."

Already, a number of states like Utah are seeing promising results from its GPON rollout. 

It is gaining strong traction with a number of local school districts in Utah and as a supplier to the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN). UETN is working with CenturyLink to build out a Terabit network that will support 1,412 schools and educational locations.

In addition to serving school districts and the UETN with 1 Gbps service, CenturyLink has seen the growth of telecommuting in Utah among those who live in apartment complexes that are taking advantage of the service where it is available. By enabling more employees to telecommute for major corporations like eBay and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), CenturyLink is helping to reduce environmental emissions.

Despite all of the movement cable operators like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Cox have been making to deliver 1 Gbps service to residential customers, CenturyLink says it has not seen cable respond with a symmetric offering in the business managed office on bandwidth side.

"I have not seen anything yet, and I have not seen anything like a symmetric offering or anything close to our Managed Office capability," Lal said. "I can't say we've seen anything unique and distinct either on the bandwidth side or the service portfolio side and we see them focused on the price and speed play going up from their consumer market."

That's not to say cable isn't being aggressive with fiber-based business offerings. Cox Business does offer its own GPON-enabled product, while Comcast Business has been expanding its Ethernet services that can scale up to 10 Gbps.

For more:
- see the release

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