Uniti Fiber's Louisiana dark fiber expansion opens up new small cell, enterprise opportunities

Uniti Fiber is on the network expansion path again, extending its dark fiber capabilities in the Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, region to target a host of enterprise and wholesale opportunities.

Set to begin this spring, Uniti will work with community and city officials in the Shreveport area during the development and construction of the project, which is expected to be completed by fall 2018.

Upon completion, Uniti Fiber will make over 19,500 strand miles of fiber available across the region.

Focused on making dark fiber infrastructure available to those enterprises which prefer to operate and manage their own network, the new network will be able to support high-count fiber. This will broaden the assets in this area by building up to 100 new route miles in the market with 144-288 strand count fiber.

Uniti Fiber (Uniti Fiber)

Customers will also be able to get  Ethernet services up to 200 Gbps speeds.

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Greg Ortyl, SVP of sales for Uniti Fiber, said the Shreveport area build is focused on leveraging and extending an existing network that primarily offered Ethernet-based backhaul to wireless operators.

“This is a market where we’re currently serving Ethernet backhaul to a couple different wireless carriers and an opportunity to leverage some of that existing plant and build out a dark fiber network,” Ortyl said. 

The new network will reach into not only Shreveport, but also Bossier City and other suburbs and rural areas.

But this expansion is part of a broader effort by Uniti Fiber to grow its reach along the I-20 corridor from Dallas to Jackson, Mississippi.

“With this being an existing market for us, it’s important to drive deeper into the market,” Ortyl said. “We have extensive network between Dallas and Jackson, Mississippi so Shreveport is one of those bigger cities that sit on that I-20 corridor.”

Focus on dark fiber

While Uniti Fiber can support high-speed lit Ethernet services, dark fiber is a key focus of this network build.

On wholesale side, the service provider said it is already getting interest in its dark fiber services from a number of local service providers, content providers and other large service providers.

Ortyl said that the new build will enhance its dark fiber capabilities that it currently offers in other markets.

“We have fiber from Monroe to Jackson and this fills in a gap in the Shreveport metro area,” Ortyl said. “We’re in the process of piecing together this Dallas to Jackson long-haul dark fiber system that we have already got hits on.”

Ortyl added that the service provider still needs to wrap up its build in order to offer a broadly available service.  

“We still have more organic builds that need to take place before we can truly offer that end to end, but the Dallas to Jackson and to Atlanta is a hot route,” Ortyl said. “We’re going to be able to participate in some of those sales in the next couple of years.”

Small cell, enterprise interest growing

By building out an expanded dark fiber network with a high fiber strand count, Uniti Fiber put itself in a position to get a piece of the emerging small cell market and E-Rate opportunities.  

Having already gained the trust of a number of large wireless operators, Ortyl said that the service provider is pursuing small cell opportunities.

“We do have small cell opportunities in the market, but we’re not ready to announce any awards yet,” Ortyl said. “It’s a market we’re currently pursuing.”

Additionally, the service provider’s recently announced acquisition of Hunt Telecom will enable it to deepen its E-Rate and business services experience.

While serving schools via the E-Rate program has been Hunt’s focus, Uniti Fiber can use Hunt’s existing network for small cell and tower backhaul. 

According to Uniti Fiber, Hunt currently has very low fiber to the tower and small cell activity and the service provider expects to use expect to its experience to grow that opportunity on the Hunt network.

“Hunt Telecom has been a real success in the E-Rate space and we feel like we can leverage their expertise in the E-Rate space to have some success in that arena as well,” Ortyl said.  

The acquisition of Hunt also brings network construction capabilities that Uniti can leverage for its wholesale and enterprise service builds.

“Hunt does a lot of their own construction so I think that’s something we can leverage and bring our costs down on the cell site and enterprise builds we have not in just Shreveport, but also in surrounding communities,” Ortyl said.