AI is 'blowing up' data center and fiber industries says Light Source CEO

  • Light Source is building an 140-mile fiber network to cover nine cities in and around Phoenix

  • The company already has a major hyperscaler as the first anchor tenant

  • The impetus for the project is the boom in data centers to serve the demand from AI

Phoenix is incredibly hot, and we're not just talking about its 100-degree temperatures. It's also hot in terms of the number of companies deploying fiber in the Phoenix metro area.

Now, Light Source Communications says it’s building a fiber middle-mile network in the metro, covering nine cities: Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Avondale, Coronado and Cashion.

The network will include a big ring, which will be divided into three separate rings. In total, Light Source will be deploying 140 miles of fiber. The company has partnered with engineering and construction provider Future Infrastructure LLC, a division of Primoris Services Corp., to make it happen.

The impetus for this project is the boom in data centers in the metro. Case in point: there are currently 70 existing and planned data centers in the area that Light Source will serve. And the boom in data centers stems from the boom in artificial intelligence (AI).

“I would say that AI happens to be blowing up our industry, as you know. It’s really in response to the amount of data that AI is demanding,” said Debra Freitas, CEO of Light Source Communications.

Another middle-mile provider, Zayo, agrees. Bill Long, Zayo’s chief product officer, told Fierce recently that data centers are preparing for an onslaught of demand for more compute, which will be needed to handle AI workloads and train new AI models.

Light Source plans for the entire 140-mile route to be underground. It’s currently working with the city councils and permitting departments of the nine cities as it goes through its engineering and permit approval processes. Freitas said the company expects to receive approvals from all the city councils and to begin construction in the third quarter of this year, concluding by the end of 2025.

The city councils in the Phoenix metro have been pretty busy with fiber-build applications the past couple of years because the area is also a hotbed for companies building fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks. For instance, in 2022 the Mesa City Council approved four different providers to build fiber networks. Later, AT&T and BlackRock said their joint venture would also start deploying fiber in Mesa.

But Light Source is focusing on middle-mile, rather than FTTP because that's where the demand is, according to Freitas.

“Our route is a unique route, meaning there are no other providers where we’re going. We have a demand for the route we’re putting in," she noted.

The company says it already has “a major, global hyperscaler” anchor tenant, but it won’t divulge who that tenant is. Its network will also touch Arizona State University at Tempe and the University of Arizona.

Light Source doesn’t light any of the fiber it deploys. Rather, it is carrier neutral and sells the dark fiber to customers who light it themselves and who may resell it to their own customers.

Light Source has been around since 2014 and is backed by private equity. It did not receive any federal grants for the new middle-mile network in Arizona.