AT&T tops leaderboard of commercial fiber lit buildings for 7th year

AT&T topped the U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings Leaderboard from Vertical Systems Group for a seventh consecutive year, demonstrating the carrier still held the highest number fiber lit buildings across its footprint in 2022.

Verizon, Spectrum Enterprise, Lumen, Comcast Business, Cox Business, Zayo, Crown Castle, Frontier, Brightspeed, Breezeline and Optimum followed in the ranks. Those retail and wholesale fiber providers qualified for the leaderboard with 15,000 or more on-net U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings as of year-end 2022.

Providers like AT&T and Verizon offer fiber lit connectivity services in most major U.S. cities and large metropolitan areas, said Rosemary Cochran, principal and co-founder of Vertical Systems Group.

“Larger commercial buildings and data centers typically have fiber connections supplied by multiple top providers (i.e., for capacity, redundancy, path diversity, etc.),” she told Fierce Telecom, noting that if different providers have a connection to the same building, then each is considered to have a fiber lit building. 

Major mobile operators like AT&T and Verizon are also actively installing new fiber for their 5G networks, which facilitates new fiber connectivity to nearby commercial sites. 

Nine companies were featured in Vertical Systems Group’s 2022 Challenge Tier with between 5,000 and 14,999 U.S. fiber lit commercial buildings. Those were Altafiber (formerly Cincinnati Bell), Consolidated Communications, FirstLight, Great Plains Communications, Ritter Communications, Segra, Unite Private Networks, Uniti Fiber and Windstream.

“There are hundreds of metro, regional and other providers of fiber services in the U.S. Smaller players are installing fiber in commercial and mixed use buildings where businesses require access to reliable, high speed connectivity services,” Cochran said. “These installations may also serve adjacent residential areas.”

According to Cochran, businesses in small commercial buildings are the fastest growing segment for new fiber connectivity, and cable multiple-system operators (MSOs) and regional operators are the primary providers of fiber-based services to underserved sites in this segment.

Major challenges to new commercial fiber build-outs include the high costs and long lead times for construction, obtaining access rights from property owners and securing right-of-way for construction from each city or municipality.

“Plus, regulatory uncertainties,” Cochran added. Although with calls for the federal government to lend its hand in the financing and regulation of residential fiber build-outs, she said its role is ”seriously not clear for build-outs of commercial fiber projects.”