While most telcos are increasing the levels of service they offer to stave off claims of the commoditisation of bandwidth, one provider is heading in the opposite direction by offering the bare bones of connection - dark fibre.
CityLink managing director Neil de Wit says the company provides the optical fibre with no terminating equipment, hence the term "dark fibre".
De Wit says rather than estimating the maximum throughput a length of fibre could possibly give and then portioning out a connection based on that, CityLink treats the fibre itself as the product and sells that accordingly. Dark fibre accounts for roughly half of CityLink’s business and de Wit says it’s perhaps the most boring product currently on the market.
“It’s what the customer does with it that’s interesting. We simply provide the point-to- point connection and leave it entirely up to them.” This gives the customers the freedom to do what they want rather than what the provider thinks they should do.
“LAN to LAN interconnection is a huge area - companies connecting two offices across the CBD, two LANs, and looking to run the connection at LAN speeds.” De Wit says security is a major concern to businesses and there are none problems with fibre that are often seen with wireless networks (see Wireless LANs found wide open).
But data is only one type of bit to be run over CityLink networks - video and voice are also popular.
“We get PBX connections, but also voice over IP with the LAN to LAN connections. Video is also a high bandwidth user so that’s popular with businesses.”
The customer type is almost as varied as well.
“We have other carriers of course, but also government is a strong user and councils as well and managed network providers who offer services to business - they’re a big fan of dark fibre.” De Wit says the major carriers are reluctant to get into the dark fibre market because they lose a degree of control over their customers.
“Isn’t that bizarre? Surely we’re in business to give the customer what they want? Telcos seem to treat bandwidth as sacred, to be sold off only in little bits. We’re looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, from an IT company point of view rather than from a telco one.”
He doesn’t mind too much though - de Wit says CityLink is the only company to include dark fibre on its rate card and while the others may provide a service in the right circumstances, CityLink has the lion’s share of the market.