SiFi Networks is building 10 Gbps open access fiber across U.S.

optical fiber
SiFi Networks has build commitments in place covering 13 cities across seven states. (Getty Images)

SiFi Networks is dangling 10 Gbps capabilities in front of U.S. operators, aiming to entice them to adopt a more European infrastructure model and sign on as tenants on its wholesale fiber network rather than building out the last mile themselves.

Company president Scott Bradshaw told Fierce SiFi has build commitments in place covering 13 cities across seven states. This will eventually yield a projected footprint of “well over” 40 million feet of fiber covering more than half a million homes and businesses, he said. CEO Ben Bawtree-Jobson added it expects to announce several additional projects in the coming months.

Bawtree-Jobson told Fierce SiFi was founded in 2013 and operates using a wholesale model focused on getting carriers onboard as tenants.

But the CEO noted its open access network model is fairly revolutionary in the U.S. “It’s very much commonplace in other countries, in particular in Europe, but in the U.S. having last mile infrastructure that’s independently operated, that isn’t under the control of the service provider is a new model,” Bawtree-Jobson said.

Jeff Heynen, VP of broadband access and home networking at analyst firm Dell’Oro Group, explained in an email to Fierce this is primarily due to the “the legislative influence of the big telco and cable operators.” He said major incumbents like Verizon and AT&T “were able to successfully lobby legislators that they should own their networks and equipment because they bear the heavy cost of the initial deployment.” In states like North Carolina, these players even convinced lawmakers to “block the roll out of municipal fiber networks because they were argued to be unnecessary.”

While a handful of open fiber networks have sprung up in cities across the country, Heynen said, “The influence of the big carriers on legislation (local, state, and national) has limited their advance over the years.”

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Bawtree-Jobson noted reactions to its offer have varied, with smaller ISPs “happy to get onto networks, share infrastructure and gain access to customers” without having to spend massive amounts in capex and opex. Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are a tougher nut to crack, he said.

Bolstering its pitch, though, is SiFi’s plan to roll out 10 Gbps capabilities from day one. Bawtree-Jobson said the idea is to be “ahead of the game in terms of philosophy, thinking, concept. Ahead of the game in terms of network architecture. Ahead of the game in terms of network capability and speed as well.”

SiFi is planning to use micro-trenching for its fiber rollouts, which is expected to help accelerate its deployments. Bawtree-Jobson said depending on the size of the project, its city deployments are expected to take anywhere from two to five years to complete.