Fibertech snaps up fiber-based small cell network build

Fibertech Networks has reached another milestone in its wireless backhaul service drive, activating an outdoor fiber-based metro small site for a wireless operator carrying commercial traffic.

Michael Hurley, VP of sales and marketing for Fibertech, said this is what they believe to be the first fiber-based small cell "put into commercial use outside of DAS in stadiums." 

Already providing wireless backhaul to a number of Tier 1 operators, Fibertech has built out fiber to thousands of cell towers across its entire 11-state footprint.

Hurley said he expects other fiber-based small cell deployments from other wireless operators in the future, but could not specifically say where they would take place.  

"When you talk to the wireless providers, the estimates go from every macrocell there will be 6 or 7 small cells over time," he said. "That will happen just because the device in your pocket drives more data and I am believer that wireless companies will give triple-play to the home a run for its money so they'll need to keep filling in the gaps to get bandwidth closer to the device."

Like other wholesale providers, Fibertech also sees that dark fiber will be a key factor in upcoming small cell and backhaul applications.

"It's a mix of things depending on the carriers, but for the most part we believe it will be more dark fiber based just because the small cell itself is their core network and they're going to want to spec that, control that and manage that," Hurley said. "More often than not we believe it will be dark fiber backhaul enabling them to drive their unit."  

However, Hulrey added the driver to use dark fiber or lit service will ultimately depend on the nature of each deployment.

"There will be a combination of things of where it's being mounted and where it's being placed so depending on that it will have some impact on whether it's dark or lit," he said. 

The competitive provider is hardly alone in the small cell backhaul race. FairPoint Communications (Nasdaq: FRP) was tapped to provide wireless backhaul for a small cell deployment being conducted by alternative wireless operator CoverageCo in rural Vermont using its existing copper-based DSL network infrastructure. However, the difference with Fibertech's win is it's a fiber-based deployment.

Fibertech did not specify where this small cell deployment was taking place, but based on its success it could potentially replicate it in the other markets where it is expanding its fiber network presence.

An area of focus is the Midwest market, where the service provider recently broke ground on a new 750-mile fiber network in Detroit. Earlier, it launched similar fiber network expansion efforts in both Connecticut and Cincinnati, which could also become targets for new Fiber to the Tower (FTTT) and small cell deployments.

While the deployment of small cells has not happened as fast previously expected, Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier Wi-Fi at Infonetics, said in a recent study that it expects "that $3.6 billion to be spent worldwide on outdoor small cell backhaul equipment over the 5 years from 2013 to 2017, with the market kicking into high gear in 2015."

For more:
- see the release

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Updated article on Feb. 7 with quotes from Michael Hurley, VP of sales and marketing for Fibertech.