Lumos to add 200 wireless towers to fiber network in 2014

Lumos Networks (Nasdaq: LMOS) is once again raising the bar for its fiber to the cell site (FTTC) strategy, announcing that it will connect about 200 more wireless tower sites to its fiber network this year.

Through its "Project Ark" initiative, the service provider is building a fiber and Ethernet MPLS/IP-based overlay network that's specifically designed to handle FTTC traffic within its network. However, it also will be available to select large enterprise customers.

One of the benefits of Project Ark's MPLS architecture is the ability to scale bandwidth as needed without having to change the network design or install significant new equipment.

"We expect that Project Ark will give us more than enough bandwidths runway to handle future traffic demand and it is highly scalable," said Tim Biltz, president and CEO of Lumos Networks, during the fourth-quarter earnings call. "We expect this new 800-mile overlay network will be operational in the third quarter 2014 and we will begin to offload traffic from our existing integrated network shortly thereafter." 

Upon completion, Project Ark will provide total bandwidth of about one terabyte and is built to handle FTTC traffic from 1,500 sites on Carrier Ethernet from an average of 1.5 tenants per site and 400 Mbps of throughput at each cell site. Project Ark will connect four markets in Lumos' footprint: Pittsburgh, Pa; Charleston, West Va.; Roanoke, Va.; and Ashburn, Va.

Like other service providers, Lumos has aggressively expanded its base of fiber-fed towers in recent years.

The telco has added 460 FTTC sites and it expects to add at least 200 more in 2014, bringing it to a total of 825 on-the-air sites by the end of 2014. This was lower than its original target to have about 1,000 sites on air.

"We currently have enough unique FTTC sites under contract to meet our year-end 2014 budget of 825," Biltz said. "Then we are targeting to book between 500 and 700 new FTTC unique and second unit circuits during 2014."

The service provider's efforts in the wireless backhaul space continue to bear fruit. Wireless backhaul was a key part of the telco's fourth-quarter 2013 carrier revenues, which rose sequentially to $16.1 million. In 2013, Lumos signed contracts for 238 new sites to end the year with a total of 608 cell sites under contract, up 64 percent from 370 it had at the end of 2012.

For more:
- see the release
- and the earnings transcript (reg. req.)

Related articles:
Lumos Q4 strategic data revenue jumps 11.3% to $31.2M, offsets legacy voice losses
Biltz: Lumos' focus on customers key to its transformation to a fiber-centric provider
Lumos lights metro Ethernet in Richmond, expands Western Pa. fiber upgrade
Lumos Networks revenue drops to $51.6M, but maintains 2013 guidance