Gigapower CEO likens open access model to MVNOs

  • Gigapower CEO Bill Hogg said the network essentially has an “arms-length” agreement with anchor tenant AT&T
  • AT&T has the retail relationship with consumers, while Gigapower handles the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects
  • ISPs on open access networks can use bundling to stand out, he said

Gigapower, AT&T’s fiber joint venture with BlackRock, has been one of the bigger players to step foot into the open access space.

In a fireside chat with FBA President Gary Bolton, Gigapower CEO Bill Hogg talked about what exactly open access means for the JV.

Hogg said while open access means a lot of things to different people, in Gigapower’s case, it’s a commercial open access platform that has “arms-length” agreements with the ISPs that choose to ride on Gigapower’s network (AT&T is currently the only tenant).

What Gigapower is offering is similar to the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model, he noted, where companies that don’t own their own wireless infrastructure can lease network capacity to stand up a mobile offering.

“We build a fiber network that we share among multiple ISPs,” Hogg said. “We provide TM Forum standard APIs to interface with our network, so it’s easy to onboard to our platform in a standard way.”

The Gigapower JV is focused on building fiber outside of AT&T’s ILEC footprint. It currently has builds in progress in parts of Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

A common question that comes up with open access is who’s responsible for all the different customer service components of a network?

For AT&T, Gigapower is handling provisioning, installation and repair, said Hogg. An ISP on the network can use an application programming interface (API) to take orders, create repair tickets, do service quality checks – things like that.

“They can take an order, just like they do today, send that order over to Gigapower through these APIs,” he explained. “We roll a truck to do the drop, to do the installation in the home, to test Wi-Fi…if there’s a repair that’s required [AT&T will] schedule a repair appointment” and Gigapower will take care of the repair onsite.

“There are different models, but that’s the one we’re executing on with AT&T and it’s working well,” said Hogg.

The actual bill that the customer gets will come from AT&T, he added, but Gigapower is the “arms and legs behind that.”

How ISPs can stand out

Suppose there are a bunch of ISPs on an open access network, how can they differentiate themselves? David Burr, president of Sumo Fiber (a tenant on UTOPIA), has said market saturation can cause a lot of confusion for consumers trying to pick a provider.

Bundling is one way to stand out from the crowd, Hogg said. An ISP can offer a wireless and broadband bundle or even a “gaming platform bundle with broadband optimized for low latency and high speed.”

There’s also something called an “affinity group-based” offer. For example, an ISP provides a discounted broadband plan to consumers aged 55 and above.

“The nice thing is they have a lot of flexibility to tailor different speeds, different speed tiers,” he added. “It really becomes something the ISPs can focus on – the offer and the product and the service – as opposed to the building of the network.”