The Most Interesting Telcos in North America: CenturyLink, Frontier


AT&T and Verizon garner the vast majority of headlines, but let's look beyond Mexico and Orwellian supercookies for a moment. CenturyLink and Frontier are doing a lot work with the resources they have—both bear watching for what they are building.

Louisiana-based CenturyLink has invested a substantial  amount of money in data centers and core IP infrastructure.  A few weeks ago, the company announced it deployed Alcatel-Lucent's 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS) as an upgrade, enabling an end-to-end managed IP/MPLS network. A single 7950 XLS core router can forward 16 terabits of data per second while doing so at considerable power savings as compared to alternatives.

CenturyLink needs the network horsepower. It is deploying gigabit fiber services in 16 cities within its footprint, some of first new major broadband deployments in the country over the past twelve months.  Residential customers in Denver, Las Vegas, Omaha, Orlando, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle now can get gigabit Internet access along with a full TV package.

Data centers also benefit from the MPLS network.  CenturyLink has 57 data centers worldwide, adding more than 180,000 square feet of new build space to its inventory in 2014. Businesses can purchase collocation, public cloud and/or private cloud services, enabling a wide mix of alternatives for outsourcing IT rather than building and maintaining infrastructure in-house.

Last month, CenturyLink announced Aamir Hussain joined the company as an executive vice president and chief technology officer (CTO). Hussain most recently worked as Liberty Global's managing director and CTO for Europe. He will be responsible for design and delivery of next generation products, services and technologies, including leading on automating and scaling CenturyLink strategic products.

Frontier doesn't have the national and global ambitions of CenturyLink, but it's no slouch at deploying advanced technology.  In response to fiber announcements by AT&T and Google, Frontier is deploying gigabit services in Durham, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon

It also just announced deploying high density Wi-Fi solutions at the American Tobacco Historic District and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park using ADTRAN's managed ProCloud Wi-Fi service. Tweaks to the stadium deployment include the ability to provide live, high-quality replays on mobile devices—an important feature during sporting events that pose unique problems for network venues.

Frontier also has some interesting work ahead in Connecticut.  It completed its acquisition of AT&T Connecticut's wireline, broadband, and video assets, giving it another high-quality territory to upgrade to gigabit speeds.

Both companies have the potential to continue expansion as AT&T and Verizon look to shed what they consider "legacy" territories.  Buying up mid-sized independent phone companies is also an option for Frontier, which retains pride in serving small town USA.

The hole in either company's portfolio is wireless. In an ideal world, either or both companies would be able to work out a strategic partnership with Sprint or T-Mobile US, securing the "Un-carrier" as a wireless partner in exchange for an equity stake and providing facilities for LTE expansion.  It would be a complex but complementary relationship, providing the telcos a wireless partner while T-Mobile would get access to wireline and cloud products it could sell in the enterprise space. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Editor

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