Zayo sees growing interest in dark fiber for macrocell, small cell backhaul

Zayo continues to see that dark fiber services -- something that traditional telcos won't offer -- is a growing factor in its wireless backhaul business.

While it could not cite any specific wireless customers, the service provider is seeing the majority of the interest for dark fiber in macrocell deployments.

"We are definitely seeing a lot more interest in dark fiber, not just this year, but for the last few years for the macrocells," said Dave Jones, SVP of FTT for Zayo, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "In fact the majority of our mobile backhaul sales over the last two years have been for dark fiber as opposed to lit services."

Zayo is also seeing a similar demand for dark fiber in the growing small cell segment.

Wireless operators are using the dark fiber services to connect the small cells back to a larger macrocell in their networks, a factor Jones says can enable them to reduce costs.

"In the case of small cells, the vast majority of deployments are dark fiber and in most cases what they're looking for is that connection from the small cell back to the nearest macro" Jones said. "One of the key things with small cells is to keep costs down as much as possible and keep the installation as simple as possible and the best way to do that is provide them with dark fiber that you can basically plug into the small cell and at the macro you plug the other end into the existing cell site router."

Jones added that once they have that dark fiber in place, an operator can "put Ethernet on it or they can use it for CRAN and run CPRI on it depending on what kind of RAN technology they are deploying."

Overall wireless backhaul has been a growing business for Zayo. The service provider recently completed the build out of fiber to 800 tower sites. What's interesting about these builds is that each of them leverage previous anchor FTTT network builds already in place.

Part of these 800 sites includes a new agreement with an unnamed wireless carrier to provide FTTT service to 500 towers, a deal that will not only expand its wireless backhaul business, but also could be used to target new enterprise and content service opportunities. 

It's likely that Zayo will be able to continue to grow their dark fiber and wholesale FTTT business, particularly as large wireless operators such as Sprint (NYSE: S) moves forward with its network densification build where it will deploy new macrocells and small cells, for example.

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