Bluebird Network, a communications infrastructure provider and operator of two data centers and 10,000 miles of fiber-optic cable routes, will expand fiber access to more than 500 small cells across five states and 28 markets in the Midwest by the end of 2021.
“We’re well over 1,000 small cells already,” Michael Morey, Bluebird Network president and CEO, told AGL eDigest. “Adding on fiber to 500 small cells is an important point in the development of Bluebird Network, as well as for the 5G small cell rollouts of the wireless carriers.”
The expanded fiber network will provide connectivity for businesses and communities, as well as carriers.
“The application for these 500 small cells is important, but the effect it has on Bluebird is that it densifies our fiber footprints in those cities, some of those cities where we already have fiber deployed,” Morey said. “When you throw another 64 towers in a particular city, you get a lot denser concentration, and that allows us to drive all kinds of other sales, whether it is to other wireless providers, enterprises, hospitals, governments, financial institutions or manufacturers.”
When wireless carriers place network access points, such as towers, closer and closer to their users, the number of people using each tower becomes smaller. Thus, obtaining a return on investment for providing coverage to a smaller and smaller physical area becomes more difficult.
“In order for us to be able to make economic sense out of being in all of these locations that are much closer together, we need to be able to layer on top of other services,” Morey said.
Bluebird Network’s expanded fiber reach supports densification initiatives steadily underway throughout the United States, particularly benefiting the Midwest in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. Some of the towns are relatively small, such as Broken Bow, Oklahoma, whose population is just above 4,000; Knoxville, Iowa, population 7,000 plus; and Dixon, Illinois, population 15,000 plus.
“When the 5G small cell movement started, deployments were in places like New York and Chicago and Los Angeles, and then it migrated into places like Kansas City and St. Louis,” Morey said. The deployment of fiber into the smaller towns signals that the carriers are in fact, moving farther out with small cells. The 5G movement is underway, and Bluebird plans to be a major player in enabling its rollout and subsequent adoption.”
Bluebird’s latest small cell expansion complements the company’s initiatives from last year. Among its accomplishments, it purchased Colohub Data Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, renaming it Bluebird Quad Cities Data Center; founded the Springfield Internet Exchange Point, which is housed within the Bluebird Underground Data Center in Springfield, Missouri; and acquired the Illinois Network Alliance in Illinois. Additionally, numerous dense fiber builds were completed in Missouri, including Columbia (60 route miles), Springfield, (61 route miles), Jefferson City (26 route miles), Joplin (21 route miles), and Strafford (60 route miles).
In September 2019, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, the largest infrastructure investment firm in the world, purchased Bluebird.
“We have been going below the radar, but we’ve been accomplishing quite a bit over the last year and a half,” Morey said. “We are going through a nice, well-managed platform of growth and expansion. We’re working hard to grow the value of Bluebird.”