Interconnecting via Carrier Ethernet network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) can be an excellent opportunity for regional fiber network operators, as an announcement from Ritter Communications and iRis Networks yesterday illustrates. Ritter started out more than 100 years ago as a local phone service provider in Marked Tree, Arkansas but more recently built a fiber network serving businesses in 59 communities in surrounding areas including parts of Tennessee. iRis Networks, owned by 12 small independent telcos in Tennessee, also operates a fiber network serving a large part of the state and parts of surrounding states.

Ritter and iRis previously were interconnected via TDM connections but as Ritter Vice President of Sales Steve Smith explained in an interview, what’s unique about the new interconnection agreement “is that it is Ethernet and it [connects] a unique rural footprint.”

Ethernet Interconnection
Many businesses in the companies’ combined serving area are looking for an alternative to bonded T-1 connections for obtaining data speeds up to 10 Mbps, explained Smith. A typical customer might be a farm equipment company or car dealer with multiple locations in the service area, he said.

Those customers will be able to order Ethernet connections from either Ritter or iRis that begin on one operator’s network and terminate on the other’s, Smith said. Customers will receive a single bill and have a single point of contact.

While larger Ethernet service providers generally provide lists of multi-tenant buildings to which they can deliver service that they share with other providers, that approach isn’t practical for Ritter and iRis because generally each business in their combined service area has its own building. Also, the operators often may be willing to run additional fiber.

Ritter-iRis Network Map
Ritter- iRis Network Map

Smith cited the example of a local church that wants service and is surrounded by a dozen or so residences. Unlike larger network operators, Ritter and iRis would not simply quote the full fiber installation price to the church. Instead they would first call all of the surrounding homes to ask if they would be interested in higher-speed service, potentially enabling the installation cost to be spread over a broader customer base.

Ritter and iRis also may install fiber to anchor institutions even if those institutions have not requested service. “Nine times out of 10 they’re buying a similar service but don’t have the capacity [they want] or can’t scale,” Smith said.

Another edge that Ritter and iRis have in the Carrier Ethernet market is resiliency. Like some other network operators in the area, the partners have a route going over a particular expressway bridge. But in addition they have an alternate path – a capability they expect to be popular for fiber to the cellsite and other installations.

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