Wilcon CEO says small cells, school districts represent the largest opportunities for dark fiber

small cell technology on a pole on a sidewalk
Wilcon has built out a sizable network in Southern California and major cities like Los Angeles.

Wilcon, a regional dark fiber provider, is finding that while traditional carriers are interested in dark fiber, there's also an uptick in enterprise sales and upcoming small cell wireless deployments.

Jon Deluca, president and CEO of Wilcon, told FierceTelecom that while service providers are tuning into dark fiber, sales to a mix of school districts and larger enterprises in the medical and financial verticals are growing even faster.

“Over the last few years, we’re seeing dark fiber come in greater demand from the enterprise segment,” Deluca said. “The carrier market, including the wireless segment has caught onto dark fiber, but we’re seeing more and more dark fiber in the enterprise segment.”

RELATED: Wilcon expands LA dark fiber network to accommodate new small cell deployments, data center interconnection

The service provider, which focuses on serving mainly the Southern California market, positioned itself for growth in its three main customer segments when it expanded its Southern California fiber network reach with a new ring connecting downtown Los Angeles and El Segundo in 2014.

By building that ring, Wilcon gained 43 route miles and 22,000 fiber miles. The ring offers diverse network access from downtown Los Angeles through Hollywood, Santa Monica and Burbank to the dense commercial district of El Segundo.

Wilcon has built out a sizable network in Southern California and major cities like Los Angeles. “The goal for Wilcon is to keep building,” Deluca said. “We’re active network builders and we have about 50 active projects going on.”  

Small cell ramps up

By expanding its network throughout Los Angeles, Wilcon has set itself to become a major purveyor of dark fiber services to wireless operators deploying small cell sites throughout the city.

Wilcon said this expansion allows it to serve “hundreds” of small cell sites across Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), including the Central Business District, Fashion District, Koreatown and Chinatown.

Deluca said that Wilcon sees small cell backhaul as one of its largest upcoming customer segments for dark fiber.

“The whole wireless infrastructure, including small cell, tower backhaul and C-RAN opportunities, is the single biggest growth opportunity for us,” Deluca said. “The driver in dark fiber-based wireless tower backhaul is centered on the replacement of existing lit services to current towers and new tower development.”

Deluca added that “if you look at a unit basis, the amount of new small cells deployed far outstrips new tower development, particularly in urban and downtown areas.”

To support the small cell demand, Wilcon is deploying a higher density of fiber counts. “We have always been believers in fiber density,” Deluca said. “We’re 288 and 432 fiber cables as we build out our network, and that’s paying off for us now.”

Enterprises, schools like dark fiber

On the enterprise side, the key customer set for Wilcon is local school districts that are taking advantage of new E-Rate rules.

Wilcon is currently in the process of deploying a large dark fiber network for a school district in Orange County, California, for example.

Additionally, the service provider is deploying dark fiber to the higher education colleges, financial and medical verticals.

“We find that the growth driver in the enterprise space from a dark fiber perspective is multi-node, private network requirements,” Deluca said. “Point to point networking is still largely lit or optical.”

While it would seem that local school districts would not have the experience to deploy a dark fiber network, Deluca said the schools are either doing the integration work themselves or are hiring an integrator.

“The school district deal we did with a Cisco integrator was a hand-in-glove situation where the integrator was happy to sell the boxes and the whole thing fit,” Deluca said. “They certainly have a long-term opportunity where they can manage and scale their business as they see fit.”