Tillman gets $500M from Northleaf for open access fiber build in 5 states

The open access wave in the U.S. continued to build this week, as Tillman FiberCo announced it received a $200 million investment from Northleaf Capital Partners to fuel plans to build an open access fiber network in five states. The deal with Northleaf leaves the door open to another $300 million investment when the time is right.

Founded in 2021, Tillman FiberCo is a subsidiary of Tillman Global Holdings, whose other subsidiary Tillman Networks is a well-known player in the telecom construction world. But unlike its sister company, Tillman FiberCo not only designs and builds fiber networks, but also owns them. It is specifically looking to build a position as a wholesale provider of open access fiber networks for residential and business use.

“We decided to build our own fiber because we did not want to acquire a legacy network using older technology platforms and outdated solutions. Our expectation is to offer a fiber to the prem network using XGS-PON and the latest Wi-Fi 6 or 6E technology,” Ken Dixon, CEO of Tillman FiberCo, told Fierce. He added the XGS-PON network will be upgradable to 25G.

Sachit Ahuja, President of Tillman Global Holdings, added Tillman FiberCo has already received licenses to operate as a CLEC in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas. Work on the network has already begun, with outside plant construction set to start later this year.

Dixon stated the company plans to begin announcing markets “in the coming months” but hinted that it is “targeting areas that are densely populated suburban and urban edge areas.” He added it has already secured an unnamed anchor tenant for its network, though the network will be available for other ISPs to use as well.

“The open access model has been proven in other geographies, including the U.K. and Europe, and we look forward to leveraging it here in the U.S.,” Dixon concluded.

Neither Dixon nor Ahuja specified how many passings the company is targeting, with the latter stating only it is building “at scale.”

Growing movement

Tillman isn’t the only company eyeing open access fiber in the U.S. AT&T teamed with private equity firm BlackRock Alternatives last year to launch a joint venture called Gigapower which aims to build an open-access fiber network to an initial 1.5 million customer locations in the U.S.

After the pair named Mesa, Arizona as their starting point, Fierce discovered Gigapower also secured permission to build in Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada as well. AT&T subsequently confirmed those cities as targets, and it said additional builds would come in Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania.

Other open access players in the U.S. include UTOPIA Fiber, SiFi Networks and Underline Infrastructure. Ting Internet has also signed on as anchor tenant on several open access networks, and executives previously told Fierce they’re not concerned about not owning the underlying infrastructure.