Windstream says EarthLink deal gives it unique fiber routes, plans to continue metro, long-haul expansions

Combined Windstream and EarthLink deep fiber nationwide network
The EarthLink acquisition will help Windstream with its ongoing metro network expansion.

Now that Windstream has completed its acquisition of EarthLink, the service provider is keen to extend and take advantage of new routes in key markets throughout the southern states.

Buddy Bayer, SVP of transport engineering, told FierceTelecom during this week’s OFC show in Los Angeles that it can build on the initial work EarthLink started for a long-haul fiber network.

Specifically, the service provider will be able to take advantage of routes it did not have in Florida.

“They were starting to develop a long haul network and a good example of that is the route between Miami, Tampa to Tallahassee, which is one we did not have on our network,” Bayer said.

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Bayer added that EarthLink also adopted the same long-haul optical network equipment EarthLink uses.

“They were leveraging Infinera’s DTN-X and we leverage the DTN-X so there’s some pretty simple integration that can take place because of the commonality between the platforms,” Bayer said.

But the long-haul network is only one element that EarthLink complements.

The acquisition will also help Windstream with its ongoing metro network expansion, a key initiative that provides two benefits: lowering third-party access costs and enhancing reach to more business and wholesale customers.

“They also gave us deeper regional footprints,” Bayer said. “In the South, the Deltacom assets that they had we get a deeper footprint in some of those southern territories like Alabama, Georgia and Florida, but also they had a good presence in the Philadelphia area.”

Metro fiber expansion, product rationalization

An ongoing initiative for Windstream is to continue to expand its metro fiber network.

Just this week, the service provider announced that it will expand its fiber network in Little Rock, Arkansas, for example.

This latest expansion is part of Windstream’s multi-city campaign to connect even more data centers and commercial buildings to the company’s national backbone.

Besides Little Rock, Windstream is expanding its metro fiber networks in a number of cities including Charlotte, Nashville, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Cleveland.

Having purchased a number of regional fiber-centric providers over the years like Cavalier Telephone and KDL, Windstream is now in the process of further integrating those assets.

“In the metro, we had a pretty focused initiative on the consumer side where we have upgraded the network,” Bayer said. “We’re doing something similar on the CLEC side where we’re going into the metro markets and combining existing Cavalier Telephone, KDL and Windstream assets to create a brand new overlay network in these metros.”

Windstream calls the metro expansion program "NETX," which is about rationalizing assets in order to deliver higher speed services to businesses and carrier customers.

“It’s really about cleaning up the metro environment and making it an enablement like 100G capabilities,” Bayer said. “Moving it away from legacy platforms and modernizing it with the latest and greatest ROADM technologies and switching capabilities.”

Moving dark fiber

By purchasing EarthLink, Windstream can expand the availability of dark fiber in its regions.

Prior to the acquisition, EarthLink started a program to sell dark fiber to carriers and content owner a route-by-route basis.

While most ILECs have shied away from offering dark fiber, Windstream has continued to sell it opportunistically to other carriers and, increasingly, content providers.

“We were a bit more aggressive selling dark fiber than EarthLink was,” Bayer said. “In the southern territories, particularly in the areas where it had the former Deltacom assets, EarthLink has denser fiber networks upon which you could sell dark fiber assets.”

Bayer added that the acquisition will enable it to bolster dark fiber sales in the South.

“In the Northeast they don’t have as dense or rich fiber networks so it was concentrated area upon which they can sell,” Bayer said. “Windstream is willing to sell dark fiber and we’ll add that capability into our mix.”