Zayo inks C-RAN deal with ‘major wireless carrier’

dark fiber

Zayo Group announced that a major but unidentified wireless carrier has selected Zayo to deploy C-RAN connectivity in two major metro areas.

Zayo didn’t identify in which markets it will be deploying the C-RAN, but it said in one market, it will provide an “over the top” fronthaul solution, providing incremental fibers on existing paths to supplement the existing network. In the other market, Zayo will initiate service for the carrier in a new cluster of sites, solving for high-demand areas by leveraging dense, existing metro dark fiber assets.

In a note issued to investors Friday, analysts at Wells Fargo Securities hinted at who they think the operator in question is. “If this ‘major wireless carrier’ is who we think it is – they are typically the first mover and others tend to follow hard and fast!,” wrote Jennifer Fritzsche, Eric Luebchow and Caleb Stein. 

Last fall, Verizon Wireless said it was moving ahead with its C-RAN plans. C-RAN technology leverages distributed base station and radio head architecture managed by a centralized cloud controller to enable a host of benefits, such as savings on capital expenditures and operating costs, increased asset utilization and savings on energy. For carriers, another key virtue of C-RAN is that it can boost capacity and network efficiency.

In its announcement last week, Zayo said that increasingly, wireless carriers are turning to C-RAN architecture to improve network performance while reducing capital expenditures and gaining operating efficiencies. “C-RAN enables wireless carriers to cost-efficiently keep pace with the growing bandwidth demand of their customers,” Dave Jones, executive vice president, Dark Fiber Solutions at Zayo, said in a press release. “C-RAN, which requires a plentiful supply of dark fiber, is a prime example of second tenant economics for Zayo.”

Clearly, Zayo sees the move toward dark fiber solutions, C-RAN and small cells as the foundation for the migration to 5G. During the company’s most recent earnings conference call, CEO Dan Caruso said the growth in the company’s revenue has been largely macro towers, but in its most recent bookings, there was a higher component of small cells than in the past, which implies that going forward, small cells would become an increasing portion, and over a longer period of time, “I think small cells will become the larger opportunity relative to macro towers.”

The C-RAN deal comes on the heels of a contract the company won to expand and upgrade a wireless operator customer’s fiber to the tower (FTTT) network, extending its dark fiber facilities to over 1,800 cell sites in 26 markets. Upon completing that expansion, Zayo’s FTTT network will surpass an estimated 10,000 cell sites nationwide.

Jones told FierceTelecom last month that while Zayo will look for opportunities to grow its fiber network into new markets, enhancing existing builds allows it to gain new contracts with current customers, but also new customers that are along the path of the fiber.

The company continues to see growing interest in dark fiber from a host of customer sets, including a mix of wireless operators, and increasingly school districts and health care providers. Data center operators are also in the mix.

For more:
- see this press release

Related articles:
Zayo wins C-RAN fronthaul deal with Tier 1 wireless operator, furthers dark fiber presence
Zayo snags 1,800 cell site backhaul contract covering 26 markets
Ericsson gets ready for C-RAN operator field trials in 2016
Verizon plans to move forward with C-RAN technology deployments