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UFD Building Business on Diversity

Carol Wilson
4/1/2014
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Is it still possible to differentiate a fiber optic network based on where it is located? One relatively new service provider is proving that case -- and not by putting financial traders closer to their exchanges.

United Fiber & Data is not yet three years old but has established itself as a network operator, based on the simple concept of serving the high-density areas of the East Coast without locating its fiber optic network along the I-95 corridor. The company was already building its network when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, wiping out many physical network facilities and proving the core reasoning of UFD's business case, which is the need for diverse physical facilities serving mission-critical functions such as data centers, stock exchanges, and basic infrastructure.

"We looked at what we can provide that complements what everyone else does, and wound up building a company on the concept of bypassing the I-95 corridor between New York and Northern Virginia," says Chris Lodge, CEO of United Fiber & Data. Many of its customers have started to realize that even buying diverse fibers from different companies doesn't provide true protection if those fibers run along the same rights of way or in the same ducts.

So what United Fiber & Data is focusing on is real physical diversity of dark fiber solutions, along with regeneration/co-location sites and, coming soon, data center options.

"There are many types of concerns companies have today -- natural disasters, terrorist threats, power outages... We have built a network to address those concerns," Lodge says.

The firm is connected in six carrier hotels in New York City and has built redundant fibers coming out of the city. It then created what looks like a horseshoe through the middle of Pennsylvania, before dropping down through the western side of Maryland to reach Ashburn, Va., and the Equinix interconnection point there, as well as the Northern Virginia high-tech corridor. The network is shown in the image below.

United Fiber & Data's Network

The company also is building three data centers in the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown, Reading, and York, and is targeting service providers, wireless backhaul, government units, and large enterprises, particularly financial services and healthcare, both directly and through channels, says Lodge.

He also doesn't discount the fact that UFD's networks are new fiber builds, using the latest technology and offering low-latency services in addition to reliability and capacity. And, while customers may start the conversation with United over diversity, Lodge believes his company is well positioned to earn its primary business as well.

United Fiber & Data is assuming a high-profile marketing position by taking over as the primary sponsor of Andretti Autosport, a position once held by GoDaddy, and its logos are all over the #27 United Fiber & Data Honda riven by James Hinchcliffe, for which it is primary sponsor. In the tradition of its predecessor, the car display at Comptel Plus in March featured some very attractive young ladies.

The United Fiber & Data Car

Lodge tells Light Reading (with a straight face) that the race sponsorship is actually paying off directly with enterprise contacts who attend the Indy car races.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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