Light ’em up. More fiber, more jobs coming to Raleigh.

Yes, the fiber optic high-speed Internet access wars in the Triangle continues to intensify.

Lightower, a rapidly expanding fiber network operator, is beefing up its operations in Raleigh and expanding to Charlotte. The privately held firm sees the North Carolina markets as attractive despite the growing presence of more fiber competitors such as AT&T and Google Fiber.

Interestingly, as GF and AT&T explore wireless broadband solutions as an alternative to burying or hanging fiber-optic cables, Lightower is lighting up more strands.

(Interesting note: One of Lightower’s investors is ABRY Partners, which bought Raleigh-based Hosted Solutions in 2008 and later sold it to Windstream.)

Based near Boston, Lightower Fiber Networks earlier this week announced plans to add “over 120 miles” to its existing Raleigh network. Another 90 miles will be “lit up” for service in Charlotte. In all, Lightower says it’s adding well over 300 fiber miles in North Carolina, including the addition of a connection to Virginia to tie in local operations to a grower fiber backbone that now stretches more than 33,000 miles across 17 states.

Although it’s not a new player in the Triangle, many people and businesses may not be aware of Lightower. This is not a consumer-focused entity, however. Lightower targets businesses only whereas AT&T, GF, Frontier (in Durham) and others offer a mix of services.

To support the bigger network, Lightower is hiring.

“Lightower currently has a small operations and sales staff in Raleigh, but now that we are launching this North Carolina expansion, we are in the process of hiring more,” a Lightower executive tells WRAL TechWire.

“Lightower also sees a lot of opportunity in North Carolina as a whole, and we plan to continue investing in new markets and new network there.”

The expansion not only means a bigger footprint but also more redundancy for the network, the company adds.

“Lightower had a substantial network in Raleigh prior to this expansion, but with this expansion, as well as new network back to Ashburn VA and Washington DC, this makes the Lightower offering in Raleigh much more valuable and meaningful to organizations there,” the exec explains.

“Now customers in Raleigh have access to the entire Lightower Network with over 22,000 service locations, including connectivity to over 275 critical data centers.”

How Lightower says it differs

Because Lightower doesn’t offer consumer services, the company says it can concentrate on providing reliable, fast service to bigger companies and institutions.

“Lightower is focused on mid-sized to large/enterprise-sized businesses, as well as governments, and educational institutions like universities and school districts,” the exec says.

“Over 4 percent of the Fortune 500 companies in our service area use us for their business-critical networking, hundreds of major universities and K-12 school districts, financial services companies, technology. Lightower is the underlying network for thousands of the brands and services that people use every day. “

(See map with this post for Lightower’s fiber footprint.)

Asked how Lightower expects to compete with other providers, the exec stresses how Lightower sets itself apart.

“Lightower is different in a few ways. Our approach is different, our solutions are different, and our network is different,” the exec explains.

“Our customer-first culture means that we will custom design, and build if necessary, the solution that is perfect for the client. We also offer industry-leading support.

“Second, our solutions are tailored to the exact needs of the customer, including the type of service, the resiliency, the latency, everything. If a customer has a certain latency requirement, we work with them on that. If a customer needs a solution to be five 9’s, we work with them on that.

“Last, our network is very dense across our footprint, and we have fiber in a lot of places that competitors do not. For example, we have 16 different routes through or around New York City, which lets us offer prospects different solutions from the competition.

“Between Washington D.C. and New York City, most competitors have fiber that runs along the I-95 corridor. While Lightower offers that route, we also offer a geographically diverse route, west of the I-95 corridor, that connects Ashburn to New York City. The density of our network, where our fiber is, and what options that affords to the customer, is something that really sets apart Lightower.”

Rapid growth

Just a year ago, Lightower merged with rival Fibertech Networks in a deal worth nearly $2 billion.

The end result is a network that covers many major metro areas across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Now it is stretching further south.

Lightower investors include Berkshire Partners, Pamlico Capital and ABRY Partners.

Lightower menu of services

  • Ethernet service from 10 Mbps to 100 Gbps
  • Wavelength service from 1 Gbps to 100 Gbps
  • Dedicated Internet access to 10 Gbps
  • Dark fiber
  • Managed private optical networks
  • Data center & cloud connectivity
  • Ultra-low latency solutions
  • Video transport solutions
  • Wireless backhaul and small cell solutions