Tower Cloud ups Atlanta network to 10G

Las Vegas -- Tower Cloud, a regional wireless backhaul specialist targeting the Southeast states, announced that it upgraded its network in Atlanta to 10G to support the bandwidth requirements of its wireless operator clients.

With this upgrade complete, the service provider can offer customers 1 Gbps of bandwidth to cell sites as needed for latency-sensitive applications such as video and wireless connectivity in cars.

The network upgrade, which is dubbed the "Generation Independent Network," consists of nine network rings connecting more than 300 towers across the metro area.

Initially delivering 1G speeds using CWDM, the new 10G network leverages a DWDM platform from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

"We were rolling out the pure IP/MPLS and Ethernet in all of our networks, which we were doing originally on a 1 Gig platform with CWDM, and as we looked at bandwidth growth on our model we began to see that the bandwidth growth was going to happen, so we convinced the team to go to the 10G DWDM," said George Townsend, senior vice president of Business Development, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "This gives us the capability of getting 300 Mbps up to a Gig to every cell site."

Townsend added that by building these higher bandwidth rates, the company "will provide the right service level assurance to [customers] by having our network perform at the highest level to renew these contracts and keep these customers long-term."

Wireless backhaul is just one benefit of the 10G upgrade.

As the service provider is looking to create a network foundation that can scale as bandwidth needs grow, the Generation Independent Network will be a platform to target the wholesale enterprise channel. Similar to the wireless market, vertical segments such as hospitals, sporting venues and government agencies are also adopting bandwidth-intensive applications such as telemedicine and cloud computing.

"Obviously, the buildout to these market segments will be based on the same financial criteria: who is near-net, who we can build to, and how we can get into a building," Townsend said. "We can then give them an A to Z connection to where they want to go with high-bandwidth, scalable networks."

To support the wholesale enterprise channel, Tower Cloud said it has hired a sales rep to directly call on colleges and universities.

Townsend said the company is getting requests for Ethernet services from local businesses in Valdosta, Vidalia and Statesboro, Ga., three markets that have typically had little choice for services.

"A lot of this is rural or underserved America, where they have had only one choice for a long time," he said. "They have software applications and others where they'd like to have Ethernet for a competitive price and maybe get it from a provider who's providing higher SLAs."

Outside of Atlanta, Tower Cloud is conducting various network upgrades in other parts of Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

The service provider built a 77-mile fiber ring to serve Aiken, S.C., expanding into LaGrange, Ga., through a partnership fiber buildout with a local electric utility. It is also providing direct fiber connections to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., and to Fort Benning in LaGrange.

In Alabama, Tower Cloud has built a new fiber ring in Dothan to serve the area west of the city and Fort Rucker, while beginning the process of upgrading to a 10G platform in Montgomery. In Florida, it is in the process of upgrading to a 10G platform and expanding its Orlando network to increase coverage and bring MSCs on-net.

The timing of these upgrades and the expansion to pursue other opportunities outside of backhaul comes at a time when the industry segment is in transition. While the wireless backhaul market will continue to see growth over the next four years, a report by Insight Research projects a "compounded annual revenue growth rate of 17 percent, with growth slowing by 2016 to be more in the range of 12 to 15 percent."

With all of the major wireless operators having completed the majority of their fiber backhaul rollouts to their major macro cells, the next stage of backhaul will likely migrate to the small cell environment. While small cells may be the next battleground for wireless backhaul, a recent FierceWireless report said that outside of some of the Tier 1 wireless operators which are conducting outside small cell tests, the majority of near-term small cell deployments will be conducted in indoor environments such as enterprises and shopping centers.

"We see the backhaul land grab as ending as wireless operators have completed their phase one through four buildouts nationwide, and now it is in fill of existing sites and eventually they'll begin focusing on small cell backhaul," Townsend said.

For more:
- see the release

COMPTEL Coverage: COMPTEL Spring 2013: Continuing coverage from Las Vegas

On the Hot Seat: Taking a new look at wireless backhaul with Ron Mudry of Tower Cloud

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