Zayo's dark fiber expansion marches on despite cost-saving goals

Zayo announced a series of expansions to its independent fiber network infrastructure including the development of new long-haul dark fiber and 400G-enabled routes.

The latest long-haul dark fiber additions include a St. Louis to Indianapolis route, bypassing the highly trafficked Chicago metro area, and a Chicago to Omaha overbuild route.

Zayo Chief Product Officer Bill Long said the company’s route expansions are selected “strategically to support both existing and new customers in high demand/high traffic areas.”

“For example, our St. Louis to Indianapolis route was specifically placed to bypass Chicago since it's so heavily trafficked while still maintaining a direct route through Chicago,” Long told Fierce. “Our newest long-haul dark fiber routes connect emerging markets, bypass heavily trafficked areas and enable the most direct routes, adding more capacity where our customers need it most.”

The long-haul dark fiber routes are built entirely underground, which will bring higher levels of security and redundancy to Zayo’s network.

The company also unveiled plans to build two more 400G-enabled routes -- from Denver to Dallas and Atlanta to Washington, D.C. -- to support customers with growing bandwidth needs driven by emerging technologies like 5G, AI, cloud adoption, IoT and edge computing. Long said the new and expanded routes will support customers’ innovation in those areas, allowing “more customers to be on more routes” for better scalability and cost savings.

The company already operationalized four 400G routes in the second quarter of 2023 -- Las Vegas to Phoenix, Kansas City to Indianapolis, Dallas to East St. Louis and Albany to Boston.

Along with the fiber enhancements Zayo added new IP points of presence (PoPs), aimed at providing customers with more connectivity options. The company added 14 neutral data centers in Q1 and nine more in Q2 across North America.

Long touted the company's most recent expansions, calling Zayo “one of the only fiber providers actively investing in growing and modernizing its network infrastructure.”

“These investments allow Zayo to continuously expand its network to deliver the capacity, bandwidth, connectivity and security our existing and new customers need, where they need it,” he added.

Zayo's commitment to expanding its infrastructure earned recognition this year, as the company was awarded a $92.9M grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Middle Mile Program. But the NTIA grant Zayo received did not contribute to any of the buildouts announced this week, Long clarified. 

While Zayo has spent the past several years investing both in its network and IT systems as a means to set itself apart, that investment has also come at a cost.

In March Zayo President Andres Irlando told Fierce that since it went private in 2020, the company's capital expenditures have been about 20% to 25% above historical averages. During that interview Irlando said the operator is aiming to bring spending down to a level below historical amounts in 2023.

However, this week Zayo declined to comment on whether they have made any progress on bringing spend down.