While AT&T and Verizon tout the ability of their fiber to provision multiple services and applications, Lumen CMO Shaun Andrews said his company has taken a different approach.
"One of the things that really differentiates us right now is our focus on fiber as part of the core infrastructure to an edge experience versus a distraction with 5G or content," Andrews said. "And being able to look an enterprise in the eye and say 'Not only do we have these capabilities, but we will build the fiber to you where you are.' That resonates with customers, and I think that's a differentiator."
During earnings calls and investor conferences, AT&T executives have made a point of highlighting how fiber feeds its 5G, AT&T Fiber, HBO Max and AT&T TV services as well its wholesale business unit.
Along the same lines, Verizon's One Fiber project, which has been ongoing for several years, combined all of the telco's fiber needs and planning into one project. It also allows Verizon to plot out its fiber uses cases and purchasing plans across all of its sectors. In addition to densification of the wireless network and enabling wireline access, having fiber deep is key for supporting radio access networks (RAN) as well as provisioning an increasing number of small cells for 5G.
Andrews maintains that without the distractions of 5G services and content entities, Lumen is better able to serve enterprise customers with its fiber.
"We're always driving fiber and building out fiber, both proactively and re-actively," Andrews said. "We were very happy with our headroom, from a fiber and peering perspective, when the pandemic hit. With some little corner case moves, adds and changes, we were able to cover that rather easily, so that that gave us some confidence. We'll always be adding fiber, especially when it comes to enterprises."
Currently, Lumen has 450,000 global route miles of fiber and 170,000 on-net buildings. It also has 350 Lumen data centers globally as well as connections to 2,200 third-party data centers in North America, Europe & Middle East, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, as well as to the leading public cloud providers.
"We try to brag about our scale quite a bit," Andrews said. "The part that I think we shortchange ourselves on is when we're talking about our peering scale."
With its own fiber and peering agreements in hand, Andrews said Lumen could offer enterprise customers the best options across private and public networking.
Lumen has bragged up its edge compute nodes, which are served by its fiber network. Due to its fiber network, Lumen can reach 98% of the enterprises in the U.S., Europe and some Latin American countries with a low latency of 5 milliseconds one way with its edge compute nodes. Lumen has deployed a bare metal-as-a-service on its edge compute nodes and plans to offer multi-tenant and private networking edge services in the first quarter of next year.
In October, Lumen opened the doors on its edge experience center in Denver in order to let customers kick the tires on their prospective edge services and applications.
"I think we do ourselves a disservice by not bragging more about our peering prowess," Andrews said. "If you come in to the edge experience center, and you monkey around there, you're going to find that you get a better experience in private (networks) than you do in public. And when you go public, you get a better experience with Lumen than you do with one of our competitors because of that peering scale."
Andrews said Lumen is still getting a feel for how to leverage the edge experience center in the virtual and physical environments due to Covid-19. With Denver being centrally located in the U.S.—which was why it was once known as the cable capital—Lumen is "doing pretty well in Denver right now," according to Andrews.
"The learnings are latency in private (networks) versus public (networks)," Andrews said. "The learnings are latency in our public versus other competitors public experiences. We have a lot of customers monkeying with leveraging the storage and the application at the edge, and then some specific use cases.
"We had some gaming specific use cases, some logistics use cases, and some healthcare use cases. Those are the three I'm aware of in December."
Andrews said with telcos partnering with hyperscale cloud providers, companies are deciding which service provider to go to market with.
"It's pretty convenient to have this center for our partner ecosystem," he said. "If we're looking to post someone's application on our edge so that small businesses get a better experience for their application, that application company wants to come into the center."