Vivacity emerges as Columbia Capital's newest digital infra bet

Christopher Rabii – FiberLight's previous chief executive – is the new CEO of Vivacity Infrastructure Group, a digital infrastructure company backed by venture capital firm Columbia Capital.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

April 18, 2024

4 Min Read
Christopher Rabii, CEO, Vivacity Infrastructure Group.
Vivacity CEO Christopher Rabii. (Source: Vivacity Infrastructure Group)

Fresh with a new CEO, Vivacity Infrastructure Group is ready for its moment in the sun.

"We are going to kill it. I'm telling you, we are going to kill it," Christopher Rabii, the company's new CEO, told Light Reading. "Any customer who wants to build a network, they could be a customer of ours."

Rabii explained that Vivacity takes an "asset light" approach to the digital infrastructure marketplace. The company partners with hyperscalers, governments, network operators and others in order to help them construct the infrastructure they need, whether that's a wireless network, a fiber operation or – potentially – data centers and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

"The challenge I have ... is picking your bets wisely," Rabii said, explaining that Vivacity isn't tied to a specific business model and can therefore work with its customers under a variety of approaches, whether that involves public-private partnerships, co-investments or joint builds. "It's a nice challenge to have," he said.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," Rabii added.

The Columbia connection

Rabii's career in telecom started more than two decades ago. He has bounced from AboveNet to Cablevision/Lightpath before landing at FiberLight in 2020 as that fiber company's CEO. He navigated FiberLight through its sale to a consortium of investment funds in 2022. "It was a good opportunity for me," Rabii summarized.

Then he started talking to the investors at Columbia Capital about their latest batch of digital infrastructure investments. The venture capital company had acquired a handful of operations that it wanted to assemble under one roof:

  • eX2 Technology, which focuses on fiber network design, construction and maintenance, including indoors;

  • Terra Consulting, which handles planning, permitting and other logistics involved with cell tower builds;

  • And Vivacity Networks, which helps to sell fiber and wireless networks for other companies.

"Chris brings a proven track record of top-line revenue growth, operational efficiencies, industry leadership and invaluable expertise from his past positions. His strategic vision and deep understanding of the industry's current and future direction will propel Vivacity Infrastructure Group's business units forward with increased velocity," said John Siegel, a Columbia Capital partner, in a recent press release announcing Rabii's appointment. 

Vivacity isn't Columbia Capital's first foray into digital infrastructure. The venture capital company has invested in fiber companies like Bandwidth IG and Wyyerd Group, as well as edge data center players like Deep Edge Realty.

And Columbia is a big player in the wireless industry. T-Mobile in 2022 agreed to pay Columbia Capital $3.5 billion for 600MHz spectrum licenses covering around 100 million people in major markets like Boston and Los Angeles. That was almost double what Columbia initially paid for the licenses. 

Options for growth

"They are great tailwinds for the business," Rabii told Light Reading, pointing specifically to the Biden administration's $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. That effort is expected to soon begin funneling cash through US states for the construction of fiber and wireless networks in rural areas around the country, an opportunity for Vivacity and a wide range of other telecom players.

"That's a great vertical for us," Rabii said. However, "it's not the only one," he added.

Vivacity is also involved in building wireless networks. "It's been a bit of a deep freeze for capital spending lately" in wireless, Rabii acknowledged. But the freeze won't last forever, particularly as wireless users continue to demand more and more data from their connections.

"That's a significant part of our business," he said, adding that wireless "will come back."

Today, Rabii is focusing on the new sectors. He said he's evaluating a wide range of options for growth, including possibly providing infrastructure around data centers or EV charging stations.

"Columbia has ample resources to fund our growth objectives," he said.

"Any business model is probably OK," Rabii said of Vivacity's approach to the market. The only catch: "The economics have to be right."

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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