Windstream says dark fiber IRUs allow it to rapidly scale West Coast network

Windstream is keen on expanding its own metro and long-haul fiber network, and its latest planned build on the West Coast is an example of that trend. But in order to scale this network quickly the service provider has established dark fiber indefeasible rights of use (IRUs) with other dark fiber providers.

Other than saying that it is working with two providers, the service provider would not share who its dark fiber suppliers are. Since these are long-term leases, Windstream can also control the electronics and routing of the dark fiber installation.

Jeff Brown, director of product marketing and product management for carrier services at Windstream, said a big advantage of purchasing the fiber leases was that it cut installation time.

“The new physical fiber builds are mainly focused on metro builds, including less expensive laterals leveraging our own existing fiber in the ground,” Brown said. “To conduct this type of build all the way to the West Coast would take a number of months so we’re leasing the fiber and lighting services ourselves.”

RELATED: Windstream to open new Western fiber transport network, address new wholesale, enterprise opportunities

But that does not mean that Windstream is going to avoid building out any fiber for this route. Brown said that “we will be constructing our own last mile metro on-ramps to get into the popular data centers that we’re targeting within those markets.”

Windstream’s West Coast network build will be carried out in two phases.

During the first phase of the network build – which the service provider said will be completed by the end of the year – Windstream will add four major markets to its 100G long-haul network: Salt Lake City, Reno, Las Vegas and the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area.

For the second phase of the project – expected to be finalized by the end of 2017 – Windstream will add 100G routes extending from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Phoenix, and Phoenix to El Paso. Upon completion, the new routes will add a total of about 4,800 route miles to Windstream’s fiber network, which currently spans more than 125,000 miles.

While Windstream is keen on building out and extending its own existing fiber network, renting dark fiber IRUs gives the service provider two benefits: It accelerates time to market and attracts new customers.

By establishing a quick West Coast build, Windstream becomes a more immediate competitive threat against established players like Electric Lightwave.

In May, Electric Lightwave doubled its long-haul optical routes and network capabilities to satisfy requirements of enterprises including OTT content providers in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas, for example.  

Potential customers, including Asia-Pacific providers that are looking for other alternative sources for long-haul connectivity, will be able to turn to Windstream.

One advantage that Windstream will have potentially has over its West Coast competitors like Electric Lightwave is that it can provide a much broader nationwide network that reaches up into East Coast.

Wholesale and enterprise customers will be able to access to over 1,200 10G Points of Presence (PoPs) in 800 cities and more than four hundred 100G PoPs in many premier carrier hotels and data centers across the United States.

Similar to other extensions of its long-haul core network into Miami and from Denver to Chicago and Dallas, the goal with the West Coast network build is all about creating new opportunities to sell optical services to a broader set of wholesale and business customers.

Being able to have this new network built quickly next year will also enable the provider to help it overcome the ongoing wholesale headwinds as more customers migrate off of TDM to IP services.

Financial analysts are paying attention to Windstream’s efforts to build out new routes in less crowded areas to carrier hotels, data centers and landing stations. Cowen and Company said in a recent research note that by building out its network in these areas, Windstream can diversify its wholesale revenue potential to reach a broader audience.

“Competition and pricing remain intense, and we believe success will be partly driven by unique/diverse routes as common routes become quickly commoditized,” Cowen said in a research note. “As such, Windstream’s RLEC roots make it a compelling wholesale transport carrier as it focuses on attractive less popular routes while secular demand for bandwidth is making its way downstream.”