US business fibre availability continues steadily to climb

18 April 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

Cover

Deployments of optical fibre to commercial buildings and data centres have grown with a notable disparity based on building size.

According to figures from Vertical Systems Group (VSG), 59.6% of medium to large buildings were fibre lit, compared to just 9.9% of small buildings at the end of 2018. Back in 2004, the benchmark for the medium to large segment was 10.9%, this has steadily grown over time. In 2017, it reached 54.8% and for the first time small building segment fell to below 50%.  

In its report ENS Research Program, research shows all remaining buildings fall into the ‘fibre gap’, a term VSG coined for sites without active fibre connectivity. This ‘fibre gap’ accounts for 40.4% for medium to large buildings and 90.1% for small buildings.

The medium to large segment is defined as buildings that have twenty or more employees, while the small building segment refers to fewer than twenty employees. Combined these two segments covers the entire US business fibre landscape.

In comparison to the medium to large unit, the small buildings segment has more commercial buildings a larger number of fibre lit buildings and expensive fibre gap.

Looking ahead into 2019, the US fibre market is sizable, growing and bifurcated according to VSG’s findings. Cable multiple system operators (MSOs) and regional network operators have been the most active in targeting fibre investment opportunities in the small buildings segment, which is underserved.

The rapid deployment of new active fibre is expected to continue throughout 2019 based on the plans of leading fibre providers. Additionally, the deployment of lit and dark fibre is increasing due to mobile traffic aggregation and 5G rollouts. And M&A activity will continue to impact the fibre leaderboard.

In February, VSG released its 2018 US carrier Ethernet leaderboard. CenturyLink topped the list, growing its port base from 12%. Louisiana-based CenturyLink came top of the 2017 board, in part because of an increased number of Ethernet ports due to its $34 billion merger with Level 3 Communications, completed in 2017. Prior to this, AT&T was top.

According to Vertical’s latest listing, AT&T was second, while Verizon came third. Spectrum Enterprise, Comcast, and Windstream round out the top six.