Brightspeed COO dishes on the network it plans to build to replace Lumen’s old copper

Brightspeed is looking to blanket more than three million locations with fiber over the coming years once parent Apollo’s acquisition of ILEC assets in 20 states from Lumen Technologies closes later this year. But COO Tom Maguire told Fierce it’s not planning to use your father’s network architecture.

The deal between Apollo and Lumen, which was announced in August of last year, is still pending regulatory approval and isn’t expected to wrap until sometime in Q3. Given the circumstances, Maguire said Brightspeed isn’t looking to get ahead of itself. However, it is carefully yet aggressively pressing forward with planning efforts to ensure it’s ready to break ground the moment the transaction is complete.

“We plan on building on Day 1,” Maguire stated, adding it’s aiming to get things rolling in multiple states rather than just one. The company has enlisted the help of several major vendors, naming fiber supplier Corning, cloud platform provider Calix and construction company Dycom among them.

Most of the nearly 7 million passings Brightspeed expects to inherit from Lumen are currently served with copper, meaning the company has the chance to build a new XGS-PON fiber network its own way. And Maguire said it’s got something special up its sleeve which will help cut cost, complexity and time to market.

He explained that a traditional fiber network uses a setup which relies on a centralized split. So, a feeder cable runs out from a central office location to a fiber distribution hub (FDH), and from there multiple distribution cables branch out to different neighborhood terminals where the line is split again to run drop cables to customers’ homes. Technicians will use fiber jumpers to connect the feeder and distribution cables when a customer requests service. Brightspeed’s architecture, however, will eliminate the FDH from the equation.

Maguire added the company is also planning to use Corning’s Push Lok cables and Evolv plug and play terminals to further cut down on the amount of splicing that needs to be done and reduce the need for specialized labor to complete such tasks.

Taken together, this strategy will save money, eliminate the work usually required to deploy an FDH and allow it to roll out its new network faster and therefore start generating revenue sooner, he said. While the pace of rollouts in 2022 will depend heavily on when the deal with Lumen closes, Maguire said Brightspeed is looking to cover upwards of 1 million locations in 2023 and each year thereafter.

In terms of early targets, Maguire stated it’s looking at factors like cost per passing. But it’s also prioritizing areas where it can build quickly and efficiently. So, for instance, that means looking at markets where it can primarily deploy aerial infrastructure. And in the early months of 2023, it won’t be going into any states where it can’t get underground work done due to winter conditions, he said.

“We’re looking at what can we get to most efficiently on day one because the thing that’s kind of important is we need to build momentum,” he said. “We’re looking for some low-hanging fruit and then once we get that under our belt, then we can start going on to things that may be a little more difficult.”