The fiber business in CenturyLink's South Florida market is booming due to it being the nexus point between the U.S. and Latin America, and across growing communities.
CenturyLink's Andy Rodriguez, general manager, south and southwest Florida, has his finger on the fiber pulse in South Florida, which currently includes expansions in Dadeland, Miramar, and Coral Springs. CenturyLink has 3,000 miles of fiber in South Florida, and 1,000 on net buildings.
"South Florida is booming," Rodriquez said. "We set a goal to increase our fiber by about 30% this year. That's what we're hoping to achieve, but the impact of COVID-19, and our ability to get permitting and other things, it may take a little more time."
Rodriquez said COVID-19 pandemic was a mixed bag for CenturyLink. It slowed down the permitting, construction and approval processes a bit due to work from home policies. On the plus side, CenturyLink's fiber installers were able to get to their worksites quicker due to the decline in traffic.
When it comes to its fiber deployments, CenturyLink takes a tactical and strategic approach across its footprint. Rodriquez is one of 26 general managers across the U.S. and parts of Canada, which also includes the federal sector, for CenturyLink's fiber builds. Those general managers represent "boots on the ground" for each region that they serve.
"We have a strong general manager community," he said. "So as we expand, we work with our peers across the country. If federal says 'Hey, we have a large federal building that we think would be best serviced with CenturyLink fiber. Can you help?' That's when I'll take a look into it, see how we can make it happen and how it can become feasible. And that was one of the drivers with an expansion we have happening in Miramar."
While CenturyLink is fiber rich in its ILEC footprint, other regions, like South Florida, are adding fiber as fast as possible. Rodriquez said CenturyLink executives feel as though it's in charge of its own destiny with its network infrastructure, cloud partnerships and fiber builds.
"We don't build it and hope they'll come," he said. "We avoid that. What we try to focus on is getting good solid data and knowledge of that particular community when making our decisions. We (the general managers) take advantage of the knowledge we have in each of our communities.
"So having the general managers is unique. It's one of the things I think that differentiates CenturyLink, which is our ability to really know each market well."
In 2019, CenturyLink announced it was building up its fiber network by adding 4.7 million miles of fiber across its inter-city networks in the U.S. and Europe. Rodriquez said that has expanded to 5.2 million miles of inner city network fiber, and that CenturyLink expects to have the rest of that deployment completed by early next year. In 2019, CenturyLink connected an estimated 18,000 additional buildings to its global fiber network. All told, CenturyLink has about 450,000 global route miles of fiber across its network.
Florida gateway on track
Last year, CenturyLink announced it was building a new network gateway in Miami. The new gateway in the Miami area of Allapattah is key to CenturyLink's ability to serve the growing market in Latin America and Mexico. In addition to provisioning its own services, the gateway will allow CenturyLink to exit several lease agreements and provide customers with colocation facilities.
The 98,000-plus square foot gateway building is located in a 500-year flood zone and sits on one of the highest points in the city. The gateway is about one mile from the Network Access Point (NAP) of the Americas, which is a 750,000 square foot data center and Internet exchange point operated by Equinix, in Miami. The gateway will also connect to subsea cables and provide colocation services to Latin America.
"We are a market that's continuing to grow," Rodriquez said. "One of things that makes us unique is our connection to Latin America."
The gateway will be a funnel into CenturyLink's large footprint in Latin America, and it will help provision the increased demand for CenturyLink's enterprise services, such as cloud, SD-WAN, WAN optimization and Ethernet services, in both South Florida and Latin America. Now that the permitting is in-hand, CenturyLink expects to have the gateway open for customers in the first quarter of next year, according to a spokesperson.
In order to keep pace with the demand, Rodriquez said CenturyLink has 15 new metro network builds underway in Latin America, among other projects.
"So we are considered culturally the gateway into Latin America, but technologically we are the gateway as well, and a lot of what we do falls into that," Rodriquez said. "We're investing a significant amount of money in expansions in Latin America. For our customers and for CenturyLink in South Florida, the impact of that gateway is big.
"I can't tell you how many customer appointments I'm on where we are essentially the North American headquarters for some Latin American-based companies and institutions. They look to us to solve either latency issues or gain access to infrastructure-as-a-service providers. It's something that we're solving as we continue to expand across Latin America and south of the border."