Cincinnati Bell sees growing potential in dark fiber, small cell backhaul

Cincinnati Bell is one of a growing number of smaller telcos that are finding growing interest from wireless operators and other traditional carriers for dark fiber and small cell backhaul services.

Speaking to investors during the second quarter 2015 earnings call, Ted Torbeck, CEO of Cincinnati Bell, said that it is seeing demand inside Cincinnati from one provider as well as adjacent markets.

"In our city, we're seeing one carrier that's coming out with contracts," Torbeck said. "We're starting to see interest from other carriers and we have met with a large carrier that was bullish on our performance and they were very aggressive in trying to get us to trample outside of our Cincinnati area to help them. And we'll look at those opportunities."

While it could not reveal any specific service providers, the service provider will continue to look at opportunities to use dark fiber in expanding into regions it does not currently serve today.

"We're not only seeing dark fiber opportunities in Cincinnati, but also outside of the region. So there are opportunities we are responding to today that would expand our footprint through an indefeasible right of use (IRU) structure," said Leigh Fox, CFO of Cincinnati Bell.

Cincinnati Bell is hardly alone in its desire to use dark fiber as a means to expand outside of its traditional territory to serve a mix of wireless backhaul and even enterprise customers.

Fellow independent ILEC Lumos Networks introduced a dark fiber product offering in May that's also being driven initially by fiber-to-the-cell (FTTC) needs.

On the small cell backhaul front, the service provider has seen initial interest from only one wireless operator.

"We see one of the major carriers extremely active from a build standpoint," said Fox. "We had just paid a visit to that carrier recently and I think they're overjoyed with the performance Cincinnati Bell has given them."

Fox added that since many other wireless operators are still figuring out their small cell plans, the telco hasn't seen a massive ramp of roll outs yet.

"It is slow going and as you [have] probably seen across the nation, most of the carriers are still figuring this out," Fox said. "It's going to be a slow rollout from the standpoint of delivering numbers to folks like us, and it will mean accelerated capex, but the returns are nice and we feel like [it's] an area we can grow in the future."

For more:
- listen to the earnings webcast (reg. req.)

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