Zayo hits halfway point in 400G upgrade

Zayo is chugging along with what company president Andrés Irlando called the “largest organic network expansion” in its 15-year history, having now rolled out several new long-haul routes and 400G capabilities across 50% of its 75,000-mile backbone network. According to Irlando, the 400G upgrade is on track to be complete by the end of 2022.

Work on the project has been underway for about a year, with Zayo having announced plans to deploy 400G across 31 routes in North America and Europe in August 2021. Thus far, the company has mostly been able to skirt supply chain issues by buying supplies well in advance. Between the equipment it has on hand and what it expects to be delivered, Irlando said it should have enough to complete the 400G upgrade work. But the future beyond that is less clear.

“We’ll see how long we can outrun the pressures the entire industry is facing,” he said. “We haven’t been impacted terribly to this point. But if there continues to be supply chain challenges, we will be impacted like everyone else in the industry.”

Irlando said the push to deploy 400G quickly is about “meeting customers where they are” and rolling out capabilities that can support their digital transformation needs. It’s also about serving up dark fiber for hyperscalers and wireless carriers which need more bandwidth for cloud-based services and 5G.

Zayo isn’t the only one making such a move. Lumen recently told Fierce it has upgraded its long-haul network with 400G and its metro assets with 100G. And following an interoperability trial of 400G ZR+ pluggable modules last month, Windstream told Fierce it was looking to begin deploying the technology across its network later this year.

According to Irlando, though, Zayo is looking to set itself apart with unique routes. To that end, it has rolled out four new high-capacity links between Dallas and Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City, and Cleveland and Columbus. Together these encompass nearly 2,000 new route miles for the company and help it cover ground where there aren’t many alternatives.

“From Dallas to Atlanta is a high-demand route that there isn’t very much coverage on across the industry. Similar with Las Vegas to Phoenix and Denver to Salt Lake City,” he explained.

Irlando added it’s also expanding its subsea footprint, for instance nearing completion of its previously announced Zeus cable between London and Amsterdam. These routes are particularly valuable for its large enterprise clients who need access to a global footprint.

Finally, Irlando said Zayo is already preparing itself for the next technology upgrade cycle, pointing to trials of 800G technology. While it hasn’t yet made 800G available commercially, he noted the tests mean it will be “more than ready” to deploy it when the need arises.