Grain buys Quintillion to chase ‘unique’ opportunity in Alaska

Broadband-focused private equity firm Grain Management is venturing into the wild, scooping up Alaskan long-haul and middle-mile fiber provider Quintillion for an undisclosed sum. Chad Crank, a managing director at Grain, told Fierce Quintillion is not just unique but “unlike probably anything I’m aware of.” And that’s a good thing.

Grain has previously invested in a wide array of fiber providers, including Great Plains Communications, Ritter Communications, Summit Broadband, Hunter Communications and LightRiver. But, like many other companies operating in Alaska, Quintillion is a bit different from anything you might find in the lower 48 states.

Founded in 2015, Quintillion serves the northwest and North Slope areas of Alaska with a network comprised of 1,200 miles of sub-sea and 500 miles of terrestrial fiber. It's the only such provider there and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. Crank said Quintillion’s business today is primarily providing wholesale connectivity to last-mile residential broadband providers in the state. Indeed, Quintillion has previously disclosed partnerships with operators including GCI and Alaska Communications

Crank said this wholesale business generates a “reasonable return” and should continue producing cash for the foreseeable future given there are long-term contracts involved.

But Crank added Grain sees a number of other opportunities for upside. These include expanding Quintillion’s network to new parts of the state, as well as opportunities to serve certain verticals including U.S. government and oil and gas customers.

Crank didn’t provide specifics about Quintillion’s potential expansion, but the operator’s website outlines ambitions to “connect Europe, North America and Asia with a high capacity-low latency fiber optic cable system through the Arctic.”

In a statement, Quintillion CEO George Tronsrue III said the deal will Grain will “accelerate the pace with which we connect more Alaskans to each other and to the rest of the world.”


Alaska is well-known enough as a hub for the oil and gas industry. But as tensions between Russia and the rest of the world have heated up, the state has also become a focal point for the U.S. military given its proximity to Russia.

Crank pointed to a buildup of resources there over the last 12 to 18 months and said he believes there are “unquantified upside opportunities” for Quintillion to provide the connectivity the U.S. military will inevitably need.