Verizon, Zayo to increase fiber strands to meet future 5G, enterprise service needs

As Verizon, Zayo and other providers look to satisfy an array of 5G wireless, consumer and business broadband services, there will be a requirement to raise the number of dark fiber strands. 

Take Verizon as an example. As part of its “One Fiber” initiative, the service provider is installing high strand count fiber in markets like Boston and Chicago.

This fiber build is designed to satisfy multiple needs: current and upcoming 4G and 5G wireless deployments, Fios FTTH and business services.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s CEO told investors during the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference 2017 last May the telco is putting in 1,700 strand cables in the main feeder routes.

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“The architecture we’re building in Boston and in other cities is multiuse,” McAdam said. “It turns out building fiber requirements for wireless in a 4G with a dense small cell deployment is the best architecture for everything because you’re going run right by the enterprise, run by the small business, and it sets you up for delivering things like smart cities.”

Barclays said Verizon’s strategy, which will likely be targeted according to specific market needs, enables the telco to future-proof its network.

“While the company doesn’t plan to use that quantity of strands in all parts of its network, it believes the requirements of 5G will require feeder pipes with many strands that connect to pipes with lower strand counts running to light poles, for example,” Barclays said. “Though 1,700 strands may not be necessary for today’s demand, given projections for exponential data growth and the latency requirements of nascent applications (autonomous cars, VR/AR), building additional lines should allow the company to avoid continuously dissecting and reengineering its network.”

But Verizon’s own internal fiber build is just one part of its strategy. The service provider will continue to work with third-party dark fiber suppliers like Zayo and Crown Castle.

Demands from carriers like Verizon and other top wireless carriers have driven these providers to enhance their fiber strand count. According to numbers gathered by Barclays, Crown Castle generally deploys between 150 to 300 strands, while Zayo’s metro market fiber has an average of 150 strands. 

Barclays noted that “if we look forward we could see a material increase from these levels as network densification takes hold.” 

Zayo, for one, was selected in October by an unnamed wireless operator to deploy over 500 small cell sites in two large metro areas. Under the terms of that multimillion-dollar agreement, Zayo will provide its set of turnkey mobile solutions, including small cell citing, placement and installation.