Lightower's 400-mile network expansion strengthens Washington, D.C., metro presence

Lightower Fiber Networks has wrapped up a 400-mile fiber network expansion that will give it greater presence in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Serving D.C., northern Virginia and Maryland, the network expansion will provide connectivity to a number of major commercial business and data center locations.

"We completed this 400-mile metro piece, which is more metro DC, up by Ashburn and heading up into Baltimore," said Rob Shanahan, CEO of Lightower, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We have the fiber placed and the Juniper and Ciena gear in place so we can sell our lit services and dark fiber."

The service provider said that this latest expansion was driven by the growing demand for higher bandwidth from a number of vertical industry segments such as enterprises, educational institutions, government, wireless, social media and cloud services.

According to a recent Bell Labs report, total metro area traffic will increase by 560 percent by 2017 due to ongoing growth in IP video, cloud services and the emerging need by carriers and enterprises to reach data centers, which are being built out in major metro areas.

Data center builds continue be a growing trend in the Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia metro areas to accommodate both the public and private sectors' move to the cloud, data storage and as a hub to support global Internet traffic that lands on the East Coast from transatlantic submarine cables.

This is the second major network expansion Lightower has completed in the past year. It completed the expansion of its fiber network in the Chicago metro area and also offers a direct route between Ashburn, Va., and New York New Jersey that is geographically diverse from the congested I-95 corridor.

Shanahan said that while the Chicago metro expansion is going well, the challenge is "a lot of it is underground so it takes a little bit longer so we got crews out with directional boring equipment out towards the toll road near the airport where we did not have any fiber before."

The service provider is also making progress with the 1,100 route ring that Sidera, one of its predecessor companies began building in 2012 is nearly complete.

It has completed the route around Richmond to Roanoke with plans to complete the Northern segment of that will connect up to Ashburn. After this segment is done, the southern route that goes across to Newport News will be done by June or July.

"We have about 800 miles that's permitted and has strand on it so now it's a matter of pulling fiber," he said. 

Having this extra fiber on hand should make Lightower more competitive not only with large incumbents like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) but also with other regional players like Lumos Networks, which has been expanding its Virginia fiber network presence.

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Article was updated on April 16 with direct quotes from Rob Shanahan, the CEO of Lightower Fiber.