Gigapower’s CEO: Open access fiber networks offer ISPs opportunities to differentiate

June 7, 2024
The service success-based provider’s model allows differentiation and a way to quickly get services to consumers and businesses.

Bill Hogg, CEO of Gigapower, has worn several hats over his multi-decade career. During his 25-plus years at AT&T, he served in multiple roles overseeing the telco’s wireline and wireless networks. 

Now, as the leader of Gigapower, he is taking on the challenge of scaling the open access fiber broadband model traditionally championed by European operators and competitive carriers like UTOPIA.

Last May, AT&T and BlackRock launched the Gigapower initiative. AT&T began serving end-user customers outside its wireline territory on the open access fiber network.

As Gigapower’s first tenant, AT&T can expand the number of customers and communities with access to its AT&T Fiber service.

Since its launch, Las Vegas has been its initial market, and Gigapower announced plans for parts of Arizona, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida, Minnesota, and Albuquerque.

Speaking at a recent Fiber Broadband Association Fireside Chat event, Hogg recognized that AT&T and the fiber broadband industry are entering new territory and that the focus is not just on being a broadband pipe owner.   

“When you think about historically, operators wanted to own and control the network and have it be a differentiator,” he said. “I thought it was progressive of AT&T to look at this and explore this different model.”

He added, “I believe this is the future of fiber networks, so I will help organize and build it.” 

Since the Gigapower network is new, it can immediately leverage next-gen XGS-PON to be capable of 10 Gbps. With a software upgrade, it can upgrade to 25 Gbps capabilities. 

“We wanted to make sure we invested in a future-proofed network that can grow with the demands of subscribers as they need more and more speed,” Hogg said. “We’re initially building out our network of 1.5 million customer locations with the option to expand that into the future.”

Success-based model

Open access means a lot of different things to different people.

Besides Gigapower, the open access model has been developed in the U.S. by pioneering providers like the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) in Utah. UTOPIA’s Marketplace has 18 private-sector internet providers.

Meanwhile, Huntsville Utilities in Huntsville, Alabama, has created an open access fiber network with Google Fiber as the anchor tenant.

Gigapower defines itself as a commercial open access platform, which means it has agreements with various ISPs that ride on the network it has built.

Hogg likens its model to how providers who don’t own their facilities get into wireless.

“Think of this arrangement as similar to MVNOs in wireless,” he said. “You have virtual network operators in wireless that ride on others’ networks, but here we build a fiber network that we share amongst multiple ISPs and provide TM Forum APIs to interface with our network, and it allows multiple ISPs to offer service over the same network.”

What’s potentially attractive to ISPs, particularly those that either have no network assets of their own or are looking to expand into a new market where they have not built out yet,, is that it requires less capital than building a new network.

“It’s a model that’s capital efficient for ISPs because they don’t have the big up-front capital required to build a network,” Hogg said. “These providers pay us as they add subscribers, so it’s a success-based model.”

Besides the capital issue, the open access model enables ISPs to focus on providing value beyond being a bandwidth pipe provider. Providers can create special bundles that pertain to specific market demographics. A gamer might want a package with higher bandwidth than someone who only uses the connection to check e-mail.

“It allows ISPs to differentiate in their offer,” Hogg said. “Some offer wireless bundles, and others might bundle broadband with other platforms like gaming. It allows them to go after different segments in a market that one ISP might not be interested in while another could be successful serving.”

Speed to market

With consumers having more connectivity options, getting services out quickly is becoming even more pressing.

One of the themes that can accelerate potential success with fiber broadband is time to market.

Through the Gigapower network, an ISP can get service up and running without building a network themselves.

“It is a speed-to-market play,” Hogg said. “The first fiber provider wins. So, identifying opportunities where there’s no fiber is job one, and ensuring you’re first to the market is job number two.”

When Gigapower launches in a market, ISPs see the value in joining the network to extend service to more customers.

“ISPs are very quick to say if you can get us into markets quickly, we’re interested in getting on the platform,” Hogg said. It is a speed-to-market play, and executing quickly and efficiently is the key to success.”  

Varying methods

In the open access market segment, ISPs all have different approaches.

AT&T, for instance, is using the Gigapower network to augment its fiber broadband network in markets where it does not operate wireline networks today.

“There are several models that will come out of this,” Hogg said. “AT&T is an out-of-territory play, so we don’t build facilities in AT&T’s ILEC territory, and everything is Greenfield.”

Besides AT&T, GIgapower has been in discussions with other providers that don’t own or operate network assets.

“We have talked to other ISPs that are non-facilities based, so their entire play is riding on other providers’ networks,” Hogg said.  

It also talks to providers operating networks in markets that use an open access network to augment their build and gain further scale.

“There’s some that have a hybrid model which has some of their networks,” Hogg said. “These providers will use Gigapower to expand that footprint or fill in areas where they are not interested in building their network and ride another network like Gigapower and provide a contiguous fiber offering.”  

BEAD possibilities

The open access fiber broadband model has gained interest as states look to meet the demand for broadband in underserved and unserved areas via the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

While he did not reveal specific states, Hogg said that state broadband office leaders see value in the open access model.

“We’ve spoken to many state broadband directors, and they like the open access model because they don’t have to choose winners or losers,” he said. “They can pick a provider and  bring in multiple ISPs to enhance competition in those areas.”

Gigapower's likely strategy with the BEAD program is to look for opportunities in markets where it has built out network facilities. Gigapower wants to ensure a critical mass in a specific geography.

“What we’re looking for in that space is adjacencies where it makes sense, and we can serve those underserved or unserved areas,” Hogg said. “We won’t likely build islands out in the middle of nowhere that don’t have some adjacency to our footprint or future phase two footprint.”

About the Author

Sean Buckley

Sean is responsible for establishing and executing the editorial strategies of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report across their websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products.

Sponsored Recommendations

The Pluggable Transceiver Revolution

May 30, 2024
Discover the revolution of pluggable transceivers in our upcoming webinar, where we delve into the advancements propelling 400G and 800G coherent optics. Learn how these innovations...

The Journey to 1.6 Terabit Ethernet

May 24, 2024
Embark on a journey into the future of connectivity as the leaders of the IEEE P802.3dj Task Force unveil the groundbreaking strides towards 1.6 Terabit Ethernet, revolutionizing...

From 100G to 1.6T: Navigating Timing in the New Era of High-Speed Optical Networks

Feb. 19, 2024
Discover the dynamic landscape of hyperscale data centers as they embrace accelerated AI/ML growth, propelling a transition from 100G to 400G and even 800G optical connectivity...

Balanced vs. Unbalanced PON: Key Differences and Deployment Impact

Nov. 7, 2023
Learn how to choose the right PON architecture for your network.