A CenturyLink fiber expansion plan will see the carrier add 4.7 million miles of fiber across the U.S. and Europe, creating what the company calls the “largest ultra-low-loss fiber network in North America.”
CenturyLink reports the first phase of this construction was completed in June, comprising 3.5 million miles of fiber, creating an expansive U.S. inter-city network. The global carrier was able to leverage existing multi-conduit infrastructure for this first phase, connecting more than 50 U.S. cities
This CenturyLink fiber expansion plan calls for an additional 1.2 million miles to be built by early 2021. CenturyLink is partnering with Corning to build the network, using Corning’s SMF-28® ULL fiber and SMF-28® Ultra fiber in a hybrid Corning® SST-UltraRibbon™ cable.
“Our newly built intercity fiber network, created with the latest optical technology, is another example of how our diverse fiber assets differentiate us from other network providers,” said Andrew Dugan, CenturyLink chief technology officer in a prepared statement. “Our multi-conduit infrastructure has a significant amount of capacity for supporting the growing demand for fiber and will allow us to quickly and cost-effectively deploy new fiber technology now and in the future. This uniquely positions CenturyLink to meet the needs of companies seeking highly reliable, low-latency network infrastructure designed to move massive amounts of data.”
The network expansion focuses on a purpose-built long-haul network and dense metro networks, CenturyLink reports. CenturyLink is already selling capacity to large enterprise companies and content providers in the U.S.
This expansion is illustrative of a “land grab” of sorts among carriers, large and small, who see fiber assets as key to their future. They’re all betting that robust demand for bandwidth and capacity will continue for years and decades to come, and the carriers with the best fiber assets are the ones who stand to capitalize most. The move to 5G, with its dependency on fiber backhaul and fronthaul, supports this trend.
It’s driving fiber network valuations higher and has increased M&A activity. Zayo pursued the strategy of building extensive fiber network assets and is in the process of being acquired for $14.3 billion as a result.
CenturyLink rival Verizon is also pursuing a similar strategy with its One Fiber approach, which led Verizon to state it would operate the largest fiber network in the U.S. According to one report, Verizon is spending $30 million per month on One Fiber, building a network across 60 major cities.
This begs the question, who will be crowned the fiber network king in the U.S.? Seems like both CenturyLink and Verizon are staking claim to that crown.