ExteNet Systems’ acquisition of MetroFiber d/b/a Axiom Fiber Networks, adds 20 miles of 864-strand fiber-count network in lower Manhattan, supplementing the fiber-optic network that supports the firm’s +2,000 nodes constructed or under construction in the New York metropolitan area.
“Clearly one of the major components of our Manhattan build is the fiber plant,” said Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO. “Axiom’s fiber is going to allow us to move forward with our distributed network deployments, which require a lot of fiber. We pull multiple strands to each node, so we need a lot of fiber in Manhattan. That is what originally got us interested in them.”
But there was more to Axiom Fiber Networks than just fiber. The firm provided high performance telecom infrastructure services over its dark fiber network to enterprise customers including, financial firms, government agencies, healthcare providers, educational institutions and media organizations.
“As we got further into the due diligence process, we decided to take advantage of the expertise of Felipe Alvarez [previously CEO of Axiom] and his team to help us monetize the fiber plant in our existing build areas with New York as the priority. That was the added benefit that we saw in this opportunity.”
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.
“As it pertains to optical network solutions, which are focused on the enterprise space, we weren’t doing it with the focus it requires,” Manire said. “The benefit of having Felipe and his team on board is that they come from this environment and they know what it takes, they know the system requirements. They will do it on a focused basis.”
The Axiom network, which has online 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.
“We have been looking at the convergence of the wireless infrastructure providers and pure telecom. The line is completely blurred,” Manire said. “There is a drive to use fiber, to densify; to push fiber deeper and deeper into buildings. It is an interesting time to further drive that convergence.”
ExteNet began deploying providing cellular coverage with outdoor DAS technology in 2005 and in 2008 moved into in-building wireless. In 2016, it expanded into enterprise communications infrastructure with the purchase of Telecommunications Properties Inc. and began to manage the fiber network inside the building. Additionally, micro data centers to facilitate tenants moving to the cloud, or third parties moving content to the edge of the network were added to the portfolio.
The wireless industry has been wrestling with the challenge of providing services to enterprises too small to warrant a carrier-funded DAS or small-cell system. The acquisition of Axiom is another evolution for ExteNet, adding more products targeted at the enterprise.
J. Sharpe Smith is the Senior Editor/eDigest. He 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].
The “hyper-densification” of small cells, the Internet of Things and connected real estate are all essential to make 5G and smart cities a reality, Ross Manire, president and CEO, ExteNet System, told an audience in a keynote address at the HETNET Expo 2017, Oct 10, in West Palm Beach.
ExteNet, which is involved in commercial office space, healthcare, hospitality and sports/entertainment, is seeing the in-building wireless market evolve away from the carrier-funded model.
“There are some very interesting changes going on in the indoor market,” he said. With respect to venues there has been a significant change in terms of how wireless networks are funded and deployed.”
Because of downward pressure on revenues from users, the ability of the carriers to fund smaller venues has been limited, leading to sales efforts directed straight to the venue owner.
“Our pitch to the venue owner is they need to think about wireless coverage as another utility. It is that important. It’s like water or electricity, heat or air conditioning,” he said. “Your tenants want to have connectivity anytime and anywhere. Studies have shown that if you have wireless connectivity it enhances the value of the building.”
ExteNet chose HetNet Expo 2017 to announce a new indoor deployment at the Columbia Center, the tallest skyscraper in Seattle. The company owns and operates more than 350 outdoor and indoor distributed networks in the United States.
Separately, Katarina Kueber, general manager at Urban Renaissance Group, said, “Building tenants and visitors expect wireless service to work flawlessly inside, irrespective of the size of the building. Today, wireless infrastructure is deemed critical for enhanced business performance and operations, with building owners and managers risking loss of business without adequate investment in indoor wireless coverage. We are extremely glad to be working with a proven leader like ExteNet in our network design and build.”
Buildings, especially older buildings, are a key growth segment, according to Manire. Building owners need to enhance their communications infrastructure to support tenant services and building management systems, because the current wiring is far below acceptable.
“Sometimes the wiring in buildings looks like a bowl of spaghetti,” he said. “It is an area we think deserves a lot of attention, so we are starting to spend more resources looking at combining the building of our wireless network infrastructure and the broadband infrastructure to support tenant services and building management services.”
ExteNet’s “New Distributed Network Vision” focuses on hyper densification of the distributed network architecture, functionality at the edge and the Internet of Things. The future of wireless is going to be less about individual technologies and more about network architecture, according to Manire.
“The focus will be on how to build a robust architecture that will support the applications and IoT that we see coming down the line,” he said. “We think that distributed networks are going to be an increasingly critical component of the overall wireless topography and hyper densification [of small cells] is going to be a part of that. We see edge functionality, more intelligence being pushed to the edge, and more content being pushed to the edge to enhance services for users.”
Manire noted nodes will reach more than 111 thousand in 2017, according to iGR Research, and the number will reach more than 519 thousand by 2021. Extenet is already involved in hyper densification of small cells in Manhattan, where it has more than 2,000 small cell nodes supporting four carriers, with has rights to 8,000 poles. It is also busy hyper-densifying the nodes in San Francisco.
The fan experience at the 2017 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, also known as March Madness, is being enhanced by distributed network systems suppliedby ExteNet Systems.
ExteNet’s multi-carrier distributed networks enable advanced wireless connectivity at three venues hosting the 2017 NCAA tournament games, including Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and an iconic sports and entertainment venue in Manhattan, New York.
This enhanced indoor coverage is designed to be seamless for subscribers of the wireless carriers that have network agreements with ExteNet for these venues.
Ross Manire, president and CEO of ExteNet Systems, said “ExteNet remains committed to partnering with sports and entertainment venues and the leading national wireless carriers to meet the ever-changing mobile demands of fans. The rate of data consumption continues to grow, and we are focused on enabling seamless coverage and high-bandwidth capacity for the participating wireless carriers in each of the prominent venues where we manage and operate our distributed networks.”
Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosted first- and second-round games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 17 and March 19, while the Manhattan venue will be the site of the men’s East Regional on March 24 and March 26. Regional games for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be held on March 25 and March 27 at Webster Bank Arena.
December 3, 2015 — ExteNet Systems completed its $1.4 billion recapitalization by its new investors Digital Bridge and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, which allows the privately held distributed network provider to execute its long-term plans for the deployment of outdoor and indoor distributed networks and small cells and maybe get bigger as well.
“With the Internet of Things a reality and 5G in the near horizon, wireless infrastructure must advance with a focus on innovative, pragmatic solutions to enable anytime, anywhere broadband connectivity,” said Ross Manire, president and CEO of ExteNet, who will remain on the board as Digital Bridge CEO Marc Ganzi assumes the position of chairman of the board.
To date all of ExteNet’s growth has been organic except for when it teamed up with SBA Communications to acquire the Mobilitie assets in 2012. The recapitalization, however, not only provided ExteNet with needed liquidity but it gave the company fuel in which to grow the business potentially through acquisitions.
“We will evaluate other companies like us in this space that might need the capital and infrastructure that we can provide,” Manire said. “It’s early in the process. No definite list of possible acquisitions. Right now there is not a huge landscape of companies that are doing what we are doing.” ExteNet will also consider opportunities outside the United States, which might be facilitated by Digital Bridge’s holdings in Mexico and China.
Manire addressed reported changes in the distributed network marketplace, which is said to be increasingly enterprise driven.
“We do see a bifurcation in the market where venue owners will need to increasingly participate economically in funding the DAS and Small Cell deployments,” Manire said. “There will be a fundamental change in the market place. We are not there yet. It is happening on a small scale, but most of what we do uses the traditional model of carrier funding.”
Other board members for the newly recapitalized ExteNet include Ben Jenkins and Warren Roll from Digital Bridge; Trent Vichie, Brian McMullen and Spencer Ryan from Stonepeak; Edward Pallesen from Goldman Sachs; and David Schaller from Delta-V Capital. Along with Digital Bridge and Stonepeak, both Goldman Sachs and Delta-V Capital are also investors in the new holding company.
It might be hard to believe, but a huge swath of what is known as Class A commercial real estate or the highest-quality buildings on the market has yet to be penetrated by in-building wireless systems.
ExteNet System identified real estate venues as ripe for implementation of indoor DAS three years ago. Two years ago, ExteNet deployed a DAS in the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago.
“We see a lot of Class A buildings without in-building coverage, similar to the Willis Tower before we deployed there,” Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO, told DAS Bulletin.
Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, the iconic Empire State Building also did not have an in-building wireless system. Until now. ExteNet Systems signed an agreement with Malkin Holdings to design, own and operate the distributed antenna system that will enable wireless access on each of the building’s 102 stories. The new DAS will serve as the crown jewel in the building’s makeover, which includes energy-efficiency, buildingwide energy infrastructure upgrades and the restoration of the art deco lobby at a cost of more than $550 million.
“Malkin Holdings clearly wanted to get coverage inside of the building as quickly as possible. It is such an iconic building, and it has so much traffic going to the observation deck, plus the amenity for tenants,” Manire said.
ExteNet is currently deploying its network, which is slated for completion in the second quarter 2014. SOLiD is the vendor for the hardware, and 15 miles of coax and fiber will be required to wire the building.
Manire describe the Empire State Building system as a “hard build.” With the building undergoing a complete preservation, ExteNet has the challenge of getting its work done while trying to stay out of the way of the other contractors. Additionally, because the structure is older, it doesn’t have raceways to pull cable through and will take more engineering work.
“One of the criteria of building an in-building DAS is that you have to generate enough signal in the interior space of the building so that you block out signal from the macrocellular environment outdoors,” Manire said. “That could demand a higher power system or more nodes and antennas spread throughout the building.”
Extenet is paying for the complete cost of the system and the deployment upfront with the expectation that it will attract multiple carriers to pay to use the system. So far, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have signed on as tenants on the neutral host system.
“We have two carriers and are working on getting two more,” Manire said. “We will move forward with an agreement from one carrier. If you waited until all four carriers agreed, you would never get anything done.”