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Comm-Infra Provider Combination Blurs Telecom Lines

J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

You may not have heard of ZenFi Networks and Cross River Fiber, which agreed to merge this week. But the communications infrastructure provider that will result will have operations across the New York City and northern New Jersey metro areas spanning both wireline and wireless worlds.

ZenFi brings its primary focus on helping mobile operators densify their networks to the merger, while Cross River Fiber delivers its primary concentration on telecom solutions for large enterprises and carriers. The resulting entity will have more than 700 route miles of fiber optic network, 130 on-net buildings, 49 colocation facilities and 1,700 outdoor wireless locations with more than 3,000 under contract.

“The merger enhances our network reach, deepens our product portfolio, and delivers a next generation network infrastructure that is the foundation of tomorrow’s communications networks,” Ray LaChance, CEO of ZenFi Networks, said. “The merger not only extends each company’s network reach but also provides an enhanced product set and customer diversity. The entity known as ZenFi Networks will deliver the combined services of both companies.”

The next generation of network infrastructure, according to LaChance, is one where the underlying infrastructure supports both enterprises’ wireline telecom services needs and carriers’ wireless needs.

“In the future, there is going to be less and less differentiation between traditional telecoms and tower companies,” he said. “It is all converging. It is one unifying infrastructure and the glue that keeps it together is under fiber and a network of collocation facilities.”

ZenFi deployed its first fiber infrastructure in support of outdoor DAS installations alongside existing enterprise fiber networks in 2008. There was a distinct separation of the networks.

“The old networks were built for backhaul of sparsely connected end points,” La Chance said. “We saw a need for a new type of network that is focused on a lot of fiber capacity and a lot of connection points, one on every street corner.”

ZenFi provides fronthaul fiber and passive wavelength services, facilitating the wireless industry’s initiative to move baseband processing from antenna sites to hub locations, known as centralized RAN.

“When I meet with the mobile operators now, they clearly see that fronthaul is a horizontal tower. There is a lot of velocity behind this convergence,” LaChance said. “Fronthaul fiber is being built much like towers are. It is a shared resource to get economies of scale. We see that as a huge opportunity.”

Both companies provide services in their respective markets: ZenFi Networks in the five boroughs of New York City, and Cross River Fiber in New Jersey. The current ZenFi Networks and Cross River management teams will continue to lead the combined company with the support of Ridgemont Equity Partners, a middle market private equity firm and majority shareholder of Cross River Fiber.

“In addition, our partnership with Ridgemont Equity Partners further strengthens ZenFi Network’s financial position by providing access to additional capital to continue to deliver on our vision of building the most pervasive and high capacity connectivity platform in the region,” LaChance said.

ExteNet’s Acquisition of Axiom Another Example of Blurring Lines

Another example of wireline/wireless convergence occurred in December of last year when ExteNet Systems acquired MetroFiber d/b/a Axiom Fiber Networks, which added 20 miles of 864-strand fiber-count network in lower Manhattan ExteNet’s fiber-optic network that supports the firm’s +2,000 nodes constructed or under construction in the New York metropolitan area.

But there was more to Axiom Fiber Networks than just fiber. The firm provided telecom infrastructure services over its dark fiber network to enterprise customers including, financial firms, government agencies, healthcare providers, educational institutions and media organizations.

Axiom goes deep inside the enterprise to provide companies with dark fiber and custom network solutions. With the deal closed, ExteNet can pursue new vectors in the enterprise space.

The Axiom network, which has five major carrier hotels, allows interconnection and connectivity to the cloud. It also gives the firm the ability to put together solutions that interconnect buildings with edge devices at the carrier hotels.

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.  Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected]

Cross River Fiber Supports RF Technologies in New Jersey

Cross River Fiber will support infrastructure and dark fiber solutions for radio-frequency (RF) wireless communication technologies that are being deployed in New Jersey. The company offers solutions to RF wireless providers, enterprise financial users, and high-frequency trading firms that require the shortest, most direct physical connection into key financial data centers in New Jersey.

Cross River’s dark fiber network and the combination of ultra-low-latency RF technologies will complement one another with redundancy and reliability that support the competitive nature of high-speed trading.

“By identifying innovative connectivity solutions, Cross River Fiber is able to deliver best-of-breed technology and communication solutions to companies that want secondary and tertiary connections that are as fast as their primary connections,” said Vincenzo Clemente, CEO of Cross River Fiber, in a press release. “Supporting the ultra-low-latency RF initiative in New Jersey is new for Cross River as we continue to develop unique solutions for our end users. This often requires thinking outside of the box and using our niche expertise in design and construction to deploy physical layer network solutions.”