Dark fiber poses challenges, opportunities for operators

Dark fiber, which is the practice of leasing fiber optic cables from a network service provider, has re-emerged as the latest fashion trend in the wireline industry.

The dark fiber opportunity is focused on serving three main markets: wireless backhaul, enterprise customers and traditional carriers. However, like any market segment, service providers remain divided on the opportunity. Competitive providers like Allied Fiber, FiberLight and Wilcon are happy to provide dark fiber, while traditional incumbent telcos and cable MSOs are a little more reticent as it could potentially arm a competitor with a powerful asset.

For wireless operators, dark fiber allows them to maintain control over the customer service experience, so if they want to increase capacity, they can do it on their own timeline.

Besides Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) , rumor has it that Sprint (NYSE: S) and others may be interested in dark fiber for wireless backhaul, although nothing has yet materialized. For more on the dark fiber market, check out this FierceTelecom special report.