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From Early Fiber to 5G Networks: The Evolution of the Network

In a recent ISE keynote presentation “The Evolution of Fiber Networks,” CTO and President of Fiber Solutions Jack Waters took the audience on a 20-year journey, highlighting the consumer, technology, economic and telecom trends along the way. Two decades ago, we were in the midst of the dot.com boom, which generated the greatest influx of capital in history.

Early fiber providers in the 1990s built networks following railroad right of ways, gas pipelines and our highways. As it turned out, the build-outs were ahead of their time. Despite growth of the internet in the late 90s, the dot.com crash slowed down the fiber momentum, resulting in a number of fiber companies with a glut of unused fiber.

As a result, the fiber industry consolidated. Zayo was founded in 2007 and began to acquire fiber network operators, knitting together a nationwide network that eventually extended to North America, Europe and beyond. In addition to the acquisition of long haul networks, the acquisition and buildout of metro networks became increasingly important, with connectivity to more locations, including data centers and commercial buildings.

Demand eventually caught up with supply and quickly surpassed it. The growth in eCommerce, the introduction of streaming services and social media were early demand drivers that have proven to be long-lasting. The adoption of mobile communications, which quickly evolved beyond voice and text, has resulted in continued mobile traffic growth, forecast to accelerate with the introduction of 5G wireless.

As mobile bandwidth backhaul requirements grew from megabits to gigabits, copper didn’t cut it. In some Zayo markets, the fiber footprint has tripled over the past five years, driven by growth in fiber-to-the-tower (FTT) connectivity.

Today, with smart homes, digital data-driven businesses and 5G on the horizon, demand is only expected to continue. For infrastructure providers, that means fiber is more important than ever — not just for carriers but for a wide range of enterprises that depend on high performance connectivity for communications, transaction and innovation.

The next generation network will largely be designed to support 5G technology, which will provide more bandwidth, coverage and lower latency for a whole host of applications. Networks will have millions of endpoints. Compute will be pushed to the edge. Densification in preparation for 5G will be long-lasting. The demand on networks will be profound, enabling a new generation of exciting capabilities with vastly improved reach, responsiveness and speed.

Click here to see Jack’s full keynote presentation.

For more on 5G, check back for our “Five for 5G” series of blogs, beginning later this month.

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