CenturyLink's new Miami gateway a boon to South Florida and Latin America

As part of an ongoing effort for its network development, CenturyLink is building a new network gateway in Miami. The new gateway in the Miami area of Allapattah checks off several key boxes for CenturyLink.

The gateway will literally be an entry point into CenturyLink's large footprint in Latin America, and it will help provision the increased demand for CenturyLink's enterprise services, such as SD-WAN, WAN optimization and Ethernet services, in both South Florida and Latin America.  

"What we were looking at over the last couple of years was an increasing demand from our customers to buy enterprise services from us," said CenturyLink's Ed Morche, president of strategic and government markets. "South Florida is one of our fastest growing markets.

"We looked at the cost of real estate, and we looked at the amount of inventory that we had remaining in our data centers, and we said in the next couple years we're going to start to hit some serious walls and constraints around our ability to grow there."

Ed Morche, CenturyLink

Morche said CenturyLink has 25 general managers across the U.S. and parts of Canada. Those general managers work with CenturyLink's corporate network planners and also with local planners "who are there on the street with them" to see what demand is and what investments are occurring.

CenturyLink had previously made network investments in the Florida cities of Miramar and Dadeland, but Morche said CenturyLink had been looking for a Miami location for the past two years in order to create a fully-owned, fully-operated facility. 

"This allow us to exit about eight leased facilities in the Miami area, and consolidate into one large gateway that we own and operate," Morche said. "So some of it is catching up with demand. Some of it is matching the other network investments that we've made in local fiber construction already, and lot of it is keeping up with the ever growing demand from Latin America and South Florida.

"We want to be the ones in charge of our own destiny."

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CenturyLink closed on the deal in May, and expects to break ground on the gateway in August. Roughly a year from the start of construction, Morche said CenturyLink plans to start migrating its services into the gateway.

"The reason that we use gateway instead of just data center is there's public data center availability here, a lot of it," said Morche. "But, we're also going to be running our own network. So, gateway for us is twofold. It's running a live network for CenturyLink, but it's also customer colocation facilities.

"Our strategy in deploying a gateway has always been to ensure that we build these out with 'triversity.' So, we have three different long haul fiber routes that we own and operate that will be coming into the building."

A map of CenturyLink's current network connections in South Florida and Latin America. Source: CenturyLink

The 98,000-plus square foot gateway building is located in a 500-year flood zone and sits on one of the highest points in the city. The gateway is about one mile from the Network Access Point (NAP) of the Americas, which is a 750,000 square foot data center and Internet exchange point operated by Equinix, in Miami. The gateway will also connect to subsea cables and provide colocation services to Latin America.

Morche said the network into the facility is operating at speeds of 100G, but CenturyLink is testing higher speeds, such as 400G, in its labs.

CenturyLink operates more than 360 data centers globally, and offers fiber connectivity to approximately 2,200 public and private data centers worldwide.

Miami one brick in the network wall

Morche said the new Miami gateway wasn't a one-off project, but rather a continuum of network development.

"You might see the same thing in the West Coast, in the Northeast, and somewhere in the Midwest," he said. "It's a really big part of the DNA of our general manager culture.

"There's really a small number of cities where we're sitting in a leased and not owned environment, but it is always our desire to be in an owned facility. We love the economics around that and we want to make sure that we build our network to give our customers access to the entire product portfolio. We have some of the most robust fiber networks out there."