Welcome 2012's wholesale service provider leaders

Sean Buckley, FierceTelecomAs we begin our coverage of this year's COMPTEL PLUS--a trade show this week in San Francisco that will focus selling wholesale services to competitive providers and increasingly wireless carriers--it's time for FierceTelecom to pay tribute to the leaders of this space with our feature Wholesale Leaders to Watch in 2012.

Competition in the wholesale service market continues to be ripe. The market segment continues to reveal new opportunities to deliver IP-based services for both incumbent and various emerging competitive providers that offer services in both large NFL and smaller cities.  

In the feature we track a number of key themes:

Consolidation Continues: Throughout 2011 and into 2012, there was a rapid wave of consolidation of service providers looking to increase their fiber footprints by acquiring other fiber-rich service providers to keep up with customer demand for bandwidth. This consolidation trend has come from both incumbent carriers and copmetitive players. Incumbent carriers, including CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL), Windstream (Nasdaq:WIN) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), have been making deals for Qwest, PAETEC and Terremark, respectively. And competitive players were no less aggressive on the consolidation front. Zayo, for instance, is in the process of acquiring AboveNet, in a deal that will instantly expand its domestic metro fiber holdings and establish the company in international markets such as in Europe.

Wireless backhaul: Wireless backhaul continues to be big business for incumbent and competitive service providers alike. On the large incumbent side, Verizon, CenturyLink, Windstream and FairPoint (Nasdaq:FRP) continued to expand their Fiber to the Tower (FTTT) footprints. Verizon expanded its Ethernet-based backhaul reach to 80 nodes supporting 23 areas in the Eastern part of the United States throughout Q4 2011. Likewise, CenturyLink built out fiber to 1,250 cell towers in Q4 2011, ending the year with almost 10,200 Fiber to the Tower (FTTT) builds complete. No less compelling was FairPoint. Having emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2010, FairPoint had connected over 700 out of 1,600 cell towers in its New England territory with fiber in 2011.

Ethernet rules: Ethernet continues to be a lynchpin service for wholesale service providers. The service has become accepted not only by businesses for their data needs but also for a host of wholesale applications, including providing off-net circuits for service providers having to go out of their own wireline region and wireless backhaul. Again, incumbent players continued to expand the reach of their Ethernet service networks. Throughout 2011, Verizon continued to expand both its domestic and international Ethernet service reach into over 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Outside of the incumbent carriers, two competitive service providers to keep an eye on are MegaPath. MegaPath is in the process of expanding its Ethernet over Copper footprint into over 680 COs by June 2012 to serve wholesale and retail customers.

Similar to our previous competitive executives to watch in 2011 feature, we are also ranking each executive by their ability to do a few things: create a profitable business, spend money, set trends and open new markets.

Take a look at our Wholesale provider leaders to watch in 2012 feature and let us know what you think by entering your comments in the comment section. And feel free to reach out to us while you're at the show in San Francisco. --Sean