Over the last couple of years, we've seen a resurgence of talk around dark fiber within the industry. Just yesterday FierceTelecom noted how it has become a "sexy" trend again and may be a valuable source of revenue for many providers.
Ten years ago, dark fiber was really popular for enterprise companies for three main reasons. First, if they had a need for near LAN speed connectivity (100mb) they only had the dark fiber option to connect multiple locations together – it was not really possible to go and get 100Mb internet connection at each of their locations and connect them together easily or cost effectively. Second, if they had a large number of smaller locations that all need to be connected together. Not having to buy multiple ISP connections from different LEC (Local Exchange Carriers) in the speeds needed made it easier to justify getting fiber. Third, security and failover – keeping traffic private and using the dark fiber to connect multiple data centers, so you could do your own failover was the way to do it. Carriers had a huge investment in fiber and looking for ways to generate revenue rather than having it lie dormant. It was almost the cliché way large companies connected infrastructure.
Fast forward to today. With the explosive growth in wireless and the need to connect all those towers together, fiber is now in short supply. I’m not surprised many carriers want to keep it for themselves as it could empower a competitor which may come back and haunt them at some future time.
With the ability to easily (generally) get 1Gb Internet connections in most major cities, enterprises can just connect themselves together using the Internet and not using their own “private” network across large geographic areas. That makes these carriers happy so they can keep the fiber for their own use. This has been the norm in the last 5 yrs or so.
So, what’s next? Almost weekly we hear about large enterprise networks that have been hacked. These security breaches are only getting bigger and it seems like no matter how much is spent on security to keep people out of your private network it keeps happening on an ever increasing scale. I think this will drive a resurgence in companies looking at dark fiber to really keep their data secure. If they are not using the public facing side of the network to connect their locations together they can’t as easily get hacked. This is why some government networks have identified “Air Gapped” as a requirement. In general, it’s easier to control what leaves your network than what is coming in since the company controls all the equipment inside their network.
While the wireless explosion is driving dark fiber availability and pricing, I think security will overtake that in the next few years if we continue to see security breaches on an increasing scale and magnitude.
*Frank DeMasi is the VP Information Technolgy at RESOLUTE Partners