From AT&T to Fatbeam: The top 25+ U.S. business fiber providers

A number of regional and nationwide service providers are building out their fiber networks or are buying other fiber providers to expand their footprints.

Fiber availability to business buildings and into other facilities such as cell towers and data centers has become a key issue as wireline operators look to fill their coffers with more enterprise and wholesale dollars. The equation is simple: Those service providers that connect more buildings, towers and data centers can derive more revenues from more customers at those locations.

Indeed, a number of regional and nationwide service providers are building out their fiber networks or are buying other fiber providers to expand their footprints. Verizon, for example, signed large-scale fiber orders with vendors Corning and Prysmian, while CenturyLink is in the process of completing a multibillion-dollar deal to acquire Level 3.

So which companies are the largest U.S.-based providers of fiber for business services?

In this report we consider two key metrics on publicly available information gathered from fiber service providers: 

  • Fiber Route Miles are measured by the conduit length. Route miles are different from fiber miles, which is the number of route miles in a network multiplied by the number of fiber strands within each cable on the network.
  • On-net fiber means that each fiber that goes into a particular building is connected directly to a service provider’s facilities and traffic passes directly onto its own network.

Fiber availability within United States-based buildings continues to rise. According to Vertical Systems Group's recent Fiber Gap report, the amount of buildings with available fiber jumped to 49.6% in 2016. This is significant, considering the fact that in 2004, only 10.9% of commercial buildings in the U.S. were connected to fiber. However, VSG's fiber availability/gap numbers are not directly related to any of the data we collected from each of the companies we cited here.

 

Provider Type Fiber Route Miles  On-Net Buildings  States
1. AT&T Telco 1.1M 385K 22
2. Verizon Telco 520K not disclosed 10
3. CenturyLink  Telco 250K 28K* 22
3. Charter Cable 233K 87K 28
4. Level 3  competitor 200K  47K** 27
5. Windstream Telco 147K not disclosed 50
6. Comcast  Cable 145K not disclosed 39
7. Frontier Telco 140K 30K 29
8. Zayo competitor 113K 24K*** 35
9. Cogent competitor 57K**** 2K 18
10. Lightower  competitor 33K 22K***** 17
11. Birch  competitor 32K 1K****** 53
12. Cox Cable 30K 28K 38
13. Crown Castle competitor 27K not dislcosed 24
14. FairPoint Telco 22K 3K 17
15. Altice Lightpath/Suddenlink Cable 19.5K 14K 20
16. Consolidated Communications Telco 14.2K 6K 11
17. Lumos Networks Telco 10.9K 2K 4
18. US Signal competitor 14K 820 23
19. FiberLight competitor 12K 2.5K 6
20. FirstLight Fiber  competitor 9K******* 5K 4
21. Cincinnati Bell  Telco 9.6K 7.2K 2
22. Unite Private Networks competitor 7K 4.5K 20
23. C Spire competitor 7.7K 2K 3
24. Conterra competitor 7K 3.5K 7
25. Alpheus ******** competitor 6K 620 1
26. Southern Light Fiber competitor 6K 5K 13
27. Wilcon ********* competitor 3K 1.5K 1
28. FatBeam competitor 301 326 4

* will scale on-net footprint to 75K buildings after completing Level 3 deal

** includes U.S.-based fiber as well as fiber facilities Europe, and South America

*** includes HFC and fiber

**** according to industry sources on-net count is closer to 1K, but the company says it has a total of 585K lit buildings that includes rented facilities

***** includes U.S.-based fiber as well as fiber facilities in Canada and Europe

****** includes U.S.-based fiber as well as facilities in Europe

******* includes data centers, wireless towers

******* will scale to 12K following Fingerlakes acquisition

******** being purchased by LOGIX

********* being purchased by Crown Castle

There are three main types of service providers that deliver fiber-based services to businesses: 

Telco: Being the main operator in town for over a century, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and other independent ILECs have continued to invest in their long-haul, metro and last-mile fiber networks to businesses. What ILECs bring to the business services table are scale, brand recognition and deep relationships. 

Cable2Led initially by pioneering provider Cox Business, a growing number of cable operators including Charter, Comcast, Cablevision, and Mediacom have been shaking up the business market by installing fiber in their core network and into business locations. After penetrating small to medium businesses (SMBs) with HFC-based services, this group has been trying to move into larger business accounts. 

Competitor3Competitive service providers are a very diverse set that range from large players like Level 3, which has reach across the United States and Europe, down to regional providers like Alpheus and Fatbeam. This segment has been challenging cable and ILECs with a host of lit services like Ethernet and even dark fiber for those customers that desire it. 

(This article was updated on June 7 with information from a few additional regional fiber providers. Also, the information in this article was devised from each of the companies listed here.) Eli Richman contributed to this report.