FiberNet Telecom Group Inc., a facilities-based carriers' carrier in New York City, recently embarked on a new strategy to design, build, and operate intrabuilding and metropolitan-area, broadband networks. What makes this startup unique is not the "what," but the "where."
The primary business for FiberNet is to provide an alternative complete last-mile solution to carriers and other communications service providers within large commercial multitenant office buildings in national tier-one markets. The company provides floor-by-floor connectivity for seamless data, voice, and video services to premises customers over a fully redundant, self-healing Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) network and then sells bandwidth to carriers that want their business.
Last October, FiberNet lit the four strands of fiber on its backbone covering downtown and midtown Manhattan. The entire metropolitan backbone comprises eight strands of fiber covering 384 fiber-mi. The network architecture consists of two separate diversely routed self-healing SONET rings. One ring operates at OC-48 (2.5 Gbits/sec) and the other at OC-12 (622 Mbits/sec). Plans are underway to eventually scale the OC-12 ring up to OC-48.
A core asset of FiberNet's business model is its ownership of 13,000 sq ft at 60 Hudson St., a premier Manhattan carrier hotel and, according to Trey Farmer, executive vice president of FiberNet, "ground zero" for telecommunications activity in New York City. FiberNet built its operations center at this location, where it can interconnect carriers within the building as well as provide them access to its metropolitan backbone. During the next five or six months, says Farmer, the company will build out collocation space and carrier interconnection space in the top-10 carrier hotels in New York.
"We're currently in the process of building out six other carrier hotels," says Farmer. "But we're not actually building the carrier hotels; rather, we're taking up collocation space within them and operating our own facility. We're a tenant like everyone else. But we use it as a way to crossconnect directly with the carriers, and that's how the carrier hops onto our network."
At 60 Hudson, for example, FiberNet has its operations facility on the 16th floor. The company, however, has conduit accessing every floor of the building with singlemode fiber. If any carrier within the building wants to provision a circuit, FiberNet can meet them at whatever floor they are on, pull them onto the main hub at the 16th floor operations center, and distribute them anywhere on the fiber-optic backbone.
There are several pieces to the FiberNet strategy puzzle. The first piece is the carrier hotels where, by establishing collocation, FiberNet can interconnect the carriers and provide metropolitan-network access. The next piece is the actual connectivity that provides carriers direct access to customers on the floors of any building where FiberNet has deployed its intrabuilding fiber-optic architecture.
"What happens there is we have an exclusive agreement with the landlord to put in what we call the FiberNet In-Building Network, or FIN," says Farmer. "This is a central distribution system within the building that gives carriers a way to interconnect to every floor within that building in an agnostic, wholesale way, using any type of technology or service they would like."
The FIN provides a fiber architecture that is diversely routed into the building using two conduit paths to avoid any single point of failure in the event of a fiber cut. Along with fiber installations, a central equipment room is set up to Bellcore standards where very-high-level optical gear is deployed to terminate a dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) network. The room may also contain high-speed distributed architectures for data networks, such as routers and switches. The entire architecture is in a ring configuration for redundancy and to support a self-healing SONET architecture. At each floor of the building, cabinets are installed to house the optical electronics, battery backups, grounding, and other requirements for a high-end fiber-optic network.
"In a traditional model, a carrier might buy carrier-weighted bandwidth directly to the basement of the building or a central office or carrier point," says Farmer. "But there, you'd have to offload to a type-2 circuit to get up to a particular building floor, or you'd have to do your own build-out. But in the FiberNet model, we actually bring a carrier-class point of demarcation straight to the customer's premises on every floor. So we allow the carrier the ability to terminate an OC-3 [155 Mbits/sec], OC-12, OC-48, and all the way down to a T1 [1.554 Mbits/sec] or DS-0 [64 kbits/sec] directly on the floor. We offer provisioning intervals of three to five days on these circuits. The reason we can do that is because we not only have an enormous amount of fiber and bandwidth in the building, but we also have a metropolitan ring on which to interconnect all that."
Traditionally, metropolitan-network architectures using SONET rings terminate at the curb. FiberNet continues the network into the premises area to allow carriers to extend their services directly to each end user on any floor of the building. It also provides those end users with a choice of carriers and services. For instance, a trading firm in an FIN-connected building could have access to multiple carriers to determine which offered the most affordable optical services available; they could then plug into whichever carrier met their need or offered them the best deal.
"We have lots of competitors right now who are going in and trying to deploy in-building or building-centric models using copper and fiber within the building," says Farmer. "The difference between them and us is that they're selling their own services to the end user. We position ourselves as sort of the premier carriers' carrier for the last mile. In a nutshell, we're extending the carriers' carrier market from the streets up into the building--and we're doing it with an all-optical backbone that's built for the next 20 years of technology. We're not selling a service to the end user, we're just selling bandwidth."
The FIN architecture may have added appeal to smaller Internet service providers and tier two and three carriers. Unlike large tier-one carriers who usually have the option of deploying fiber directly to customers, the smaller-market players are less inclined to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on infrastructure. That's where FiberNet wants to offer an alternative solution.
"We want to empower those carriers to have an affordable network that will directly touch the end user," says Farmer. "They should have the option of offering their services on a network that is built to the highest standards of the industry."
Currently, FiberNet has five buildings in its New York network. By the end of 2000, the company plans to have more than 30 buildings on its Manhattan backbone. Targeting the "million-square-foot, class-A properties" in the metropolitan areas, Farmer says FiberNet will have connectivity into the 10 top carrier hotels in New York City and eventually will set its sights on other cities in the United States and abroad.