ZenFi Network’s Ray La Chance Shares His Thoughts on Wireless Connectivity, the Digital Divide and Telecom Franchises in NYC

  • Post on August 12th, 2015

Originally written by Walter Cannon, Vice President, Sales Marketing, ZenFi Networks.

ZenFiJeff Mucci, CEO & Editorial Director of RCRWireless, recently sat down with our President and CEO Ray La Chance to discuss the current state of New York’s wireless coverage and explore ZenFi Networks, Inc.’s plans to tackle the city’s connectivity challenges both today and in the future. ZenFi Networks is New York’s premier provider of connectivity and colocation delivered over a private dedicated fiber optic network.

NYC: The Wireless Envy of the World?

Former SEC Commissioner and current President & CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association Jonathan Adelstein recently stated that New York City is the wireless envy of the world. According to Ray, the validity of that statement really depends on who you ask and the carriers you’re aligned with. While the complexity in connectivity that people are solving in New York City may make it the envy of the world, the quality of user experience in the metro area falls short. At ZenFi, we believe that there is a huge capacity challenge in New York City, with demands for massive infrastructure to support the density and a current network topology that is light years behind better-connected European cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Manhattan grows from 2 to 3.5 million people every workday. Currently, there is not enough capacity in the borough to support the initial 2 million inhabitants, let alone the 3.5 million people it balloons to during the workweek. The fiber optic network infrastructure in place in New York City was purpose-built to support the needs of large enterprises, not the fragmentation that is needed today in order to have ubiquitous coverage and antennas everywhere. At ZenFi, we believed a new, more densified network needed to be built in order to bring more capacity closer to the end-user. That is why we purpose-built the innovative Open-Access Dark Fiber Network.

The Open-Access Dark Fiber Network is a dense fiber optic fronthaul footprint built to deliver what we like to call “any pair, anywhere” in the New York metro market. Any pair, anywhere pertains to fragmenting the local network in order to make drops at every NYC street corner, as well as everywhere in between. Our Open-Access Dark Fiber Network, which leverages a neighborhood network and colocation infrastructure model, is designed to support widely distributed wireless equipment interconnection and colocation.

The Digital Divide

Wireless connectivity is essential to today’s business and individual NYC building tenants; some have even dubbed it the “fourth utility”. However, since most major telcos in New York City only provide wireless coverage to enterprise buildings, a digital divide is emerging between telcos and building managers when it comes to connecting smaller buildings ranging anywhere from 500,000 to 100,000 square feet. The primary cause of this divide: differing views on who should fork up the initial CapEx to build-out the necessary infrastructure.

With approximately 600,000 buildings and over a million parcels of land in NYC that need coverage, carriers simply do not have the capital required to install the equipment themselves. At ZenFi, we believe a collaborative effort between building managers and telecom providers is necessary to bridge this digital divide and bring connectivity to all of NYC’s buildings. Economies of scale will help reduce the costs for providing connectivity throughout the city by aggregating assets and sharing costs.

To further aid wireless service providers and neutral hosts in overcoming this connectivity challenge, Ray proposes the usage of CRAN, or centralized RAN, which centralizes costly assets such as Base Band Units (BBUs) and connect it to less expensive assets in the field, such as Remote Radio Heads (RRHs) and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to provide more connectivity to the user. Although ZenFi is not a CRAN provider, we are an underlying enabler of the technology with the necessary fiber infrastructure to connect the base station assets to the DAS and other satellite locations. With these measures in place, our company can establish more neighborhood colos to further improve latency for users.

New Hope for Telecom Franchise Reform

With future plans to extend our Open-Access Dark Fiber Network millions of feet across New York City, Ray pays special attention to the city’s issued franchises as well as zoning and approval processes – which as of today, are incorporated with the franchise. While previous NYC franchise and rights agreements for carriers required us to pay a percentage of revenue to the city, current franchises, such as the Information Services and Telecommunication Services franchises that ZenFi is a part of, require providers to pay per foot of network deployed in the public right of way. Although this simplifies administration, it disincents carriers from speculatively building network to reach underserved neighborhoods due to large upfront costs. With these mandates set to expire in 2021, we at ZenFi are optimistic about the city’s interest in propagating broadband. Our hope is that city officials will work with franchisees like ZenFi to support the speculative build of additional networks.

To learn more about both Ray and our team’s views on New York City’s regulatory environment, CRAN, DAS, and Colocation expansion, and how ZenFi is improving wireless connectivity in NYC, watch the interviews in their entirety by visiting www.ZenFi.com/news.

To learn more about ZenFi Network’s Dark Fiber and other high-performance optical network solutions, please contact sales@ZenFi.com.

For more information about ZenFi Networks, visit www.ZenFi.com.