Lighting Up Dark Fiber
If you can't get dark fiber from a carrier, try these other resources.
A source of frustration for many companies comes when needing to connect two or more buildings that are either visible to each other or, even worse, within walking distance. What are their options? Licensed and unlicensed radio, VSAT, VPNs, private lines... maybe even the proverbial two cans and a string. Copper? Fiber?
Copper is noisy and, in spite of technological advances, remains electrically vulnerable and limited in carrying capacity. But the barrier to installing outside plant in public places doesn't usually happen with private fiber, and unused fiber may prove the viable choice. As you can see in the picture below, we have fiber -- and plenty of it -- installed at one of our campus locations. We need a pair, OK two would be nice, for redundancy and aggregation -- and three would even be better to connect two key buildings to each other. Unfortunately, carrier fiber runs aren't always available to customers that would like to interconnect buildings. Such is not a cost-effective offering for a carrier in some situations.
In such cases, here's a sampling of dark fiber resources:
- Dark Fiber Community (DFC) - With more than 180 members, DFC bills itself as "a free resource for network operators to help solve planning, construction, operations and finance issues from numerous, reputable providers of all aspects of physical network infrastructure." Find members that provide services within the U.S. or other countries across 14 categories and 53 subcategories here.
- Integra - Owns and operates an enterprise-class network consisting of a 6,400-mile, long-haul fiber-optic network; 3,000 miles of metropolitan fiber; and a nationwide IP/MPLS network. It owns more than 5,000 route-miles and 160,000 miles of fiber.
- Lightower Fiber Networks - Extends more than 30,000 route-miles throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, providing dense connectivity to more than 15,000 service locations. Its U.S. network includes 250+ data centers and 5,000+ wireless towers.
- Zayo Group - Provides bandwidth infrastructure services, including cloud infrastructure as a service, dark fiber, live video, wavelengths, SONET, Ethernet, IP services, and carrier-neutral colocation and interconnection. Its global network footprint extends 84,000 route-miles, with connectivity on dense metro and intercity fiber assets.
Copper plant has served, and continues to serve, us when modern technology dumps or has its reboot. The reality is fiber is more resilient and it forgives many sins within networks by hiding them with performance and bandwidth that everyone wants. But these aren't the justifications for fiber and as anyone laying in outside plant knows, fiber has numerous short- and long-term benefits for providers as well as customers.
Dark fiber provides solutions for:
- Long-haul connectivity
- Short-haul connections
- Colocation and regeneration services
Dark fiber accounts for an estimated 3 to 4% of the market, according to industry estimates, with an annual growth rate of less than 6% in recent years.